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Research Interests

Tissue stem cells give rise to various kinds of cells that constitute the tissue. Proliferation and differentiation of stem cells are tightly regulated by cytokines, hormones and cell adhesion molecules. We are interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying the development, proliferation and differentiation of tissue stem cells and current our focus is the liver stem/progenitor cells as a model of stem cell regulation. The liver is a central organ for metabolism and also makes a large amount of various serum proteins. Hepatocytes are liver parenchymal cells that are responsible for metabolism and also production of serum proteins. Bile ducts consisting of cholangiocytes drain bile produced by hepatocytes.

Hepatoblasts emerging from the fore gut endoderm differentiate to hepatocytes and cholangiocytes and are considered the liver stem/progenitor cells. In adult liver, oval cells that appear in severely damaged liver have been considered as adult liver stem/progenitors. However, the nature of fetal as well as adult liver stem/progenitor cells has remained elusive. We have developed a system to isolate and characterize these cells and have been studying the mechanism of differentiation. Recently we have successfully isolated hepatic stem cells from mouse fetal and adult livers and have been characterizing those cells.

Fetal liver is a major hematopoietic tissue, and adult liver is an immunologically active tissue because it is exposed to various foreign substances from the gut. We are also interested in hematopoiesis and immune reactions in the liver.