Scientists commenting on the research described it as promising.
"This science opens up the distinct possibility of being able to create mini-livers from the skin cells of a patient dying of liver failure," said Malcolm Alison, professor of stem cell biology at the Queen Mary University of London.
"Human mature liver cells transplanted on their own can fail to thrive, but if immature liver cells are first combined with their normally nurturing supportive cells, they can mature in the transplanted host and function efficiently," he said in a statement issued by the Science Media Center.
Dusko Ilic from Kings College London said "the promise of an off-shelf-liver seems much closer than one could hope even a year ago", but the strategy has yet to be proven in humans.
"Whilst the title of the paper is 'functional human liver,' these liver buds do not contain the biliary structures (which drain toxins out of the liver) or immune cells that characterize real human liver," added Stuart Forbes, professor of transplantation and regenerative medicine at the University of Edinburgh.