Side population (SP) cells have recently been identified in a number of tissues although their phenotype and functional abilities are poorly understood. Surface marker characterisation and functional assessment of developing liver SP cells might allow for their isolation and manipulation using clinically relevant techniques. It was hypothesised that SP cells are present early during human liver development and contribute to haematopoietic and epithelial lineage generation. Whilst the SP population remained positive for CD34 during the 1st and 2nd trimester, 1st trimester SP cells were more highly enriched for haematopoietic and epithelial progenitor activity than those from the 2nd trimester in vitro. Marker expression and functional similarities indicate that SP cells in developing human liver may share a temporal relationship with oval/progenitor cells, responsible for liver regeneration after massive or chronic hepatic injury. Furthermore, modification of SP integrin expression during development suggests a potential adaptive interaction with niche components such as fibronectin. Improved understanding of developing human liver SP cells will contribute to the generation of novel cell-based therapies for liver disease.
- Side population