24 February 2015

Will a liver transplant be replaced by cell therapy?

Donor cells can replace liver transplantation

Copper News based on Scientific American: With Liver Donors in Short Supply, Cell Transplants Offer New Options

In patients with liver diseases or liver failure, an alternative to organ transplantation has appeared: transplantation of individual hepatocytes. Such a procedure can replace 10% of the liver with healthy cells from a deceased donor. This makes it possible not to remove the liver of the patient himself, reduces the recovery time after surgery, the number of complications and the cost of the entire treatment. Although the technology is still considered experimental, about 150 such procedures have already been performed in the United States.

Since many people do not receive a donor liver on time, scientists have proposed a new technique. Fresh live hepatocytes from an organ unsuitable for whole transplantation can still regenerate inside another liver. Therefore, they are isolated and injected through the portal or umbilical veins to the patient within 48 hours. New cells enter the liver and merge with the patient's own hepatocytes. About a billion new liver cells can be infused into the body at a time.

The technology is suitable for those cases when the structure of the patient's organ is still preserved. In addition, there is a proposal to use non-donor hepatocytes, but grown in the laboratory.

The technology does not exclude some complications, but their risks are extremely low, says Ira Fox, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

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