New hope in biliary disease

Cambridge research: Test-tube bile ducts open the door to new biliary disease therapies

‘Cholangiocytes’ are a type of cell that line the inside of bile ducts and modify the chemical make-up of passing bile.1 Historically, the lack of access to human cholangiocytes has hindered the study of biliary diseases, including the hereditary disorders Alagille syndrome, polycystic liver disease, and cystic fibrosis.2

Now, scientists at Cambridge’s Wellcome Trust MRC Stem Cell Institute have used human stem cells in the lab to create cells that function just like cholangiocytes.2 This breakthrough provides the means to model biliary diseases and to test new drugs, with no harm to patients.2 Indeed, the cells have already been used to test an exciting new treatment for cystic fibrosis, with positive results.2


1. Tabibian JH, Masyuk AI, Masyuk TV, et al. Physiology of cholangiocytes. Compr Physiol 2013; 3 (1): 541–565.

2. Sampaziotis F, Cardoso de Brito M, Madrigal P, et al. Cholangiocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells for disease modeling and drug validation. Nat Biotechnol 2015; 33 (8): 845–852.

Chris Watling

Chris Watling  PhD

Principal Medical Writer

Oct 2015