Recently, several lines of investigation focused on basic mechanisms governing cellular and molecular aspects of liver biology have intersected at the study of the hepatic stem cell. Despite years of study, the very question of the existence of the hepatic stem cell has yet to be unequivocally established. A second field of investigation into the cellular and molecular aspects of liver biology is aimed at liver-directed gene therapy in which several new vehicles have been devised to mediate gene transfer. Gene therapy is no longer thought of in the limited framework of a means to correct inherited disorders; it is now expanding into new therapeutic applications. A third major area of investigation includes studies of mechanisms that regulate membrane protein traffic necessary to maintain the integrity of differentiated liver cell function. In this review, some of the most recent advances and applications in these three areas are highlighted, and, where appropriate, points of interaction and potential therapeutic importance are emphasized.
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