Durham, NC (PRWEB) October 11, 2012
Stem cell transfusions may someday replace the need for transplants in patients who suffer from liver failure caused by hepatitis B, according to a new study coming out of Beijing. . The results are published in the October issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine. Worldwide more than 500,000 people die each year from this condition.
“In China, hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection accounts for the highest proportion of liver failure cases. While liver transplantation is considered the standard treatment, it has several drawbacks including a limited number of donors, long waiting lists, high cost and multiple complications. Our study shows that mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs) transfusions might be a good, safe alternative,” said Fu-Sheng Wang, Ph.D., M.D., the study’s lead author and director of the Research Center for Biological Therapy (RCBT) in Beijing.
Wang along with RCBT colleague, Drs. Ming Shi and Zheng Zhang of the Research Center for Biological Therapy, The Institute of Translational Hepatology led the group of physician-scientists from the centers and Beijing 302 Hospital who conducted the study.
MSC transfusions had already been shown to improve liver function in patients with end-stage liver diseases. This time, the researchers wanted to gauge the safety and initial efficacy of treating acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) with MSCs. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the European Association for the Study of the Liver define ACLF as an “acute deterioration of pre-existing chronic liver disease usually related to a precipitating event and associated with increased mortality at three months due to multisystem organ failure.” The short-term mortality rate for this condition is more than 50 percent.
MSCs have self-renewing abilities and the potential to differentiate into various types of cells. More importantly, they can interact with immune cells and cause the immune system to adjust to the desired level.
Of the 43 patients in this pilot study — each of whom had liver failure resulting from chronic HBV infection — 24 were treated with MSCs taken from donated umbilical cords and 19 were treated with saline as the control group. All received conventional therapy as well. The liver function, adverse events and survival rates were then evaluated during the 48-week or 72-week follow-up period.
Along with increased survival rates, the patients’ liver function improved and platelet count increased. No significant side effects were observed throughout the treatment and follow-up period.
“While the results are preliminary and this pilot study includes a small number of patients, MSC transfusions appear to be safe and may serve as a novel therapeutic approach for HBV-associated ACLF patients,” Dr. Shi said.
“The study also highlights several key issues that will need to be considered in the design of future clinical studies, such as the optimal type of stem cells that will be infused, the minimum effective number of the cells and the best route of administration,” Dr. Wang added.
“These results are certainly promising and the strategy merits additional study, especially considering the shortage of donor organs” said Anthony Atala, MD, Editor of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The full article, “Human mesenchymal stem cell transfusion is safe and improves liver function in acute-on-chronic liver failure patients,” can be accessed at: http://www.stemcellstm.com/.
About STEM CELLS Translational Medicine: STEM CELLS TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE (SCTM), published by AlphaMed Press, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication dedicated to significantly advancing the clinical utilization of stem cell molecular and cellular biology. By bridging stem cell research and clinical trials, SCTM will help move applications of these critical investigations closer to accepted best practices.
About AlphaMed Press: Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC, San Francisco, CA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, publishes two other internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS® (http://www.StemCells.com), celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, is the world's first journal devoted to this fast paced field of research. The Oncologist® (http://www.TheOncologist.com), also a monthly peer-reviewed publication, entering its 17th year, is devoted to community and hospital-based oncologists and physicians entrusted with cancer patient care. All three journals are premier periodicals with globally recognized editorial boards dedicated to advancing knowledge and education in their focused disciplines.