Scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College have found that endothelial cells play a key role in regeneration of liver, giving hope to new treatments for restoring liver and bone marrow.

Endothelial cells are the cells that form the lining of blood vessels. These cells play "instructive role" in liver regeneration that could potentially help specialists heal damaged livers by transplanting some types of the blood cells with liver cells. Liver failure kills some 60,000 Americans per year.

“We have found that specialized blood vessel cells in the liver -- a specific type of sinusoidal endothelial cell -- initiate and sustain liver regeneration by producing growth factors that we have identified. This finding will open the door for designing new therapies to treat damaged livers," said the study's senior author, Dr. Shahin Rafii, who is the Arthur B.

Belfer Professor in Genetic Medicine and co-director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

"This is an important study. By targeting endothelial-specific genes such as Id1, as identified in this research, I hope that it will facilitate the design of new therapies to treat people with liver disease, whether due to infection, cancer, or acute or long-term damage, said "Dr. David Lyden, a co-author on the paper and the Stavros Niarchos Associate Professor in Pediatric Cardiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"Until our study, the molecular and cellular pathways that would initiate and maintain liver regeneration were not known," said Dr. Bi-Sen Ding, the study's first author and a senior postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Rafii's lab. "Attempts to transplant hepatocytes [liver cells] directly into the liver led to very limited success. But now we have identified liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) -- that, when activated, are critical to liver regeneration and may enable proper engraftment when hepatocytes are implanted into the injured liver."