Drugs could be screened for potential harmful side-effects before they are trialled in patients using pioneering stem cell research.
Scientists hope to use pioneering stem cell research
A team at Edinburgh University has generated human liver cells from embryonic stem cells.
The research focuses on certain enzymes within the liver cells that play a key role in processing drugs.
It is hoped the cells could eventually be used in therapy for patients suffering from liver disease.
They could also help research into liver disease.
Dr David Hay, a research fellow at the university's MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said: "While people have investigated the toxicity of drugs relating to the liver, we have generated a unique model that allows us to focus on key enzymes which are important in drug metabolism.
"This paves the way for testing drugs in a laboratory setting before trials in animals and humans."
Scientists looked at a particular family of enzymes - known as p450 isozymes.
They play an essential role in many bodily functions and in particular the removal of foreign compounds from the body.
Dr Hay added: "The use of embryonic stem cells hold great promise as they provide us with the ability to create unlimited numbers of human cells such as those found in the liver.
"These cells could then be used in biomedical research, drug discovery and cellular therapy.
"Such an unlimited supply of liver cells is a distinct advantage over current methods, which use liver cells from organs not able to be transplanted that are of poor quality and limited in supply."