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Genetic liver disease successfully treated with stem cell technology

Published on 13/10/2011

Private health insurance patients with genetic liver disease could one day be treated with their own cells, as stem cell technology and precision gene therapy have been used together successfully for the first time.

Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge have been working on the treatment of cirrhotic liver disease. In cirrhotic liver disease, a change to a single pair of letters in the genetic code stops an essential protein from leaving the liver to protect the rest of the body.

The researchers took a skin cell from a patient with cirrhotic liver disease and converted it into a stem cell. A molecular scalpel was used to cut out the mutation and insert the right letter. The stem cell was then turned into liver cells, which correctly released the essential protein.

Currently, the only successful treatment is a liver transplant, which requires a lifetime of drugs to prevent the organ being rejected. Whilst the new technique has yet to be tested on humans, it could soon lead to range of specialised cell treatments to tackle mutations in a wide range of diseases.

Prof Robin Ali, from University College London and the Medical Research Council's stem cell translational research committee, said:"Most gene therapy is not correcting the gene, it's introducing a new copy of the gene, what's exciting is that this corrects.

"The big problem with individualised medicine is the cost - that is one of the major barriers."

Patients with private medical insurance often have access to new treatments and medicines, even if they are too expensive for use on the NHS. Compare health insurance policies online now to secure your treatment in the future.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2011

Categories:  Medical
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