Treatment of cirrhosis with stem cells

Cirrhosis is a serious and extremely dangerous disease. It is characterized by liver cell death, which is accompanied by the formation of connective scar tissue in the liver that is not treatable. With the development of disease the structure of the liver is altered and its functioning is disturbed. At later stages of the disease the only solution is a liver transplant, but the operation is expensive and complicated. The number of donors is also limited.

An alternative treatment of cirrhosis is stem cell therapy

Animal studies about 30 years ago showed that donor hepatocytes (functional liver cells) can be introduced into the liver parenchyma of the recipient, while maintaining functional activity.

Allogenic transplantation of hepatocytes, which began to be carried out in humans, has become successfully used to treat a variety of liver diseases, particularly associated with acute liver failure.

Due to hepatocyte transplantation, hepatic metabolism of toxins and corresponding stabilization of hemodynamic parameters quickly occurs.

Unfortunately, at the same time, there are a number of issues related to transplantation of liver cells:

  • A lack of donors.
  • The risk of rejection of foreign cells.
  • Low cell survival in transplants (30%).
  • Failure to maintain and build hepatocytes.

 The solution of these problems has been found in connection with the possibility of using adult stem cells (mesenchymal stem cells, MSCs)

Advantages of MSCs:

  • Availability.
  • Relatively low cost.
  • No oncological risk arising from the use of embryonic stem cells.
  • The possibility of repeated injections, positive reinforcement.
  • Eliminated risk of rejection, since the patient’s own cells are used.

 MSCs have a number of features allowing them to be used in the treatment of various diseases, including – the liver. Their ability to differentiate into many types of cells, including hepatocytes, is widely used.

It was experimentally proved that when given intravenously to a patient, mesenchymal stem cells are embedded in his liver and differentiate into fully functional liver cells. Liver parenchyma is recovered by replacement with patient’s healthy hepatocytes.

Furthermore, MSCs produce cytokines and some growth factors, which suppress the inflammatory processes that reduce apoptosis of hepatocytes, resulting in deceleration of liver fibrosis and increased functional hepatocytes.

MSCs have the feature of migrating to sites of inflammation in the body after injection into a patient. This is explained by the presence in them of special chemoreceptors, such as those known in leukocytes, moving to a place of accumulation of chemokines and certain factors. MSCs themselves “find” places that require treatment.

It was also proven the MSCs feature to inhibit the proliferation of hepatic stellate cells, called Ito cells. This discovery can be used in cell therapy of liver fibrosis, as it is known that in the early stages of fibrogenesis Ito cells are activated and actively proliferate.

It was established that cell therapy is effective in the treatment of various stages of liver disease. With different degrees of severity of cirrhosis cell therapy improves the condition of the patient, blood chemistry, helps to regenerate the liver.

Clinical trials shown MSC have no side effects when used to treat liver. Therapy by mesenchymal stem cells showed only positive results.

Cell therapy using autologous mesenchymal stem cells is a reliable, safe and effective method of treatment of liver cirrhosis.