Skip to comments.Stem cell breakthrough to treat liver damage
Posted on 10/08/2005 11:55:08 AM PDT by LibWhacker
LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - British scientists have successfully repaired patients' damaged livers by using bone marrow stem cells from their own blood.
The victim is first injected with a drug which stimulates their bone marrow to produce extra stem cells. The stem cells are then harvested from the blood and injected into a vein or artery leading directly to the liver.
Although the researchers are unsure what the cells then do they seem to help repair any liver damage, reports New Scientist.
The finding raises the prospect of regenerating diseased livers and avoid problems with current liver transplants where the patient's body rejects the foreign organ.
Stem cells are special cells which have not yet become totally specialised to one role in the body. The techniques developed to isolate these cells are regarded as being among the most important recent scientific discoveries.
To obtain the cells the patient is given an injection of a chemical called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor) which stimulates their bone marrow to produce extra stem cells.
After five days on the drug the patients blood is screened for cells bearing the surface protein CD34 which marks them out as stem cells.
These are then extracted from the blood, concentrated and injected into the patients portal vein or hepatic artery - both of which feed blood directly to the liver.
No one is sure exactly where these cells go or what they do - but they appear to home in on and help repair any liver damage.
The liver function and general health of three out of five patients given the treatment improved significantly within two months of treatment, according to liver surgeon Nagy Habib of Imperial College London, who heads the team conducting the trial.
He presented the findings at a seminar in London hosted by the London Regenerative Medicine Network. The two patients whose health did not improve showed no ill effects from the treatment.
One patient in his early 60s had a chronic condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis which progressively damages the livers bile ducts.
"At the outset he had jaundice, was vomiting blood and had ascites swelling caused by fluid around the liver," says Mr Habib.
Two months later his jaundice had disappeared while levels of albumin a marker of healthy liver function rose to normal. Magnetic resonance scans showed the swelling had also gone down.
Mr Habibs team are hopeful they will gain approval to conduct a follow-up trial on 18 more people with liver disease.
This time Mr Habib hopes to refine the technique by isolating specialised stem cells he calls "livercytes" and multiplying them outside the body for about two weeks before re-injecting them.
An added benefit of the treatment is the stem cells can be harvested from the blood rather than from bone marrow - which is a painful procedure.
Other researchers in Japan are close to publishing the results of a similar study on 10 patients using stem cells to treat liver failure - but their technique involves extracting the cells directly from the bone marrow.
Adult stem cells offer great promise in medicine as they may generate the full spectrum of cell types needed to repair a damaged organ.
Using adult stem cells will also avoid the ethical problems associated with even earlier cell types. Embryonic stem cells can be made to develop into any cell type in the body - they would offer the ultimate flexibility.
But their only source is from aborted tissue or discarded test-tube embryos - and several campaign groups have vowed to fight any law change permitting the widespread harvesting of stem cells in these areas.
About 5,000 people in the UK are awaiting organ transplants - and for many an organ will almost certainly not be found in time. Patients will inevitably die waiting for a suitable donor
Another medical miracle NOT brought to you by embryonic stem cell research.
No babies were killed. The "smart people" aren't going to like that.
This could be even better than embryonic stem cells if this is successful. Since the cells are coming from the patient, there may be less of a chance of rejection over the long run. Honestly, I don't know since I haven't read any of the research, but it would seem plausible. I still have much hope for stem cells from fat. If that works out, then when my wife tells me to go get exercise, I can say that I'm am simply building up a good store of stem cell material, just in case:)
Wow! This sounds like a great medical breakthrough! Praise the Lord!
What's so special about the liver, anyway? Why could this not be done with every organ, or even the entire body... Just flood the body with stem cells and... Presto!... We're all young again. Nawww, can't be that simple. :-(
May God bless these scientists/doctors and help them to learn more.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is a nasty, nasty thing. This sounds wonderful. Wish they'd done it years ago.
"Stem cell breakthrough to treat liver damage"
Now Ted Kenedy will live forever.
This development is not too surprising...the liver is an
organ that regenerates all the time....there are always
molecules running around it that start regeneration processes...
The kicker here is that the "stem cell" can be "convinced" to become a liver cell or function like on...
Would like to see if the fibrosis, and general congestion of
the liver could be reversed....like if the blood would flow
easier through it....
Just another step in the understanding of how incredibly complex biological systems (feedback, regeneration, etc) are...