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New treatment options for acute liver failure

A study published in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy has shown that transplantation of human adipose derived stem cells has great potential for new treatment options for acute liver failure.


When the liver becomes damaged due to acute liver failure (ALF), it causes several debilitating diseases and high rates of death. One treatment option is liver transplantation, but it’s very expensive and donors are not always available. Artificial livers are also a clinically accepted treatment option, but this method is still being optimized. Scientists have turned to stem cells for new treatment options for acute liver failure. Bone marrow–derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) have shown great therapeutic potential in rat and pig models, however they can only be accessed by a very painful and invasive procedure. Even then, only small amounts can be taken at a time. In the current study, the researchers looked at stem cells derived from human adipose tissue (fat tissue), since it is easy to access and culture in the lab.

A rat model of ALF was injected with human adipose derived stem cells (ASCs) and then monitored for 7 days for different indicators of general and liver health. In general, rats treated with ASCs lived longer and showed overall better characteristics than rats treated with a placebo. The results showed that ASC treatment lowered the levels of two specific enzymes in the ALF rats more than the placebo treatment, which is indicative of better liver function. The scientists also found that the placebo treated group showed a lot of disorganization and cell death in the liver tissues, whereas the ASC treated group had normal healthy looking liver cells, again demonstrating the efficacy of the ASC treatment. Finally, since they injected the ASCs through the spleen, the scientists wanted to see where the transplanted cells ended up. They found that most of the cells actually remained in the spleen, and only a few moved to the liver. Moreover, only a few of the ASCs turned into liver cells. Thus further study is needed to get a better understanding of exactly how ASC treatment is having a positive effect on ALF treated rats, but in the meantime, scientists are left with a very promising, less expensive and less painful new treatment option for acute liver failure.


Chen G et al. Adipose-derived stem cell based treatment for liver failure. Stem Cell Research & Therapy. 6(40) 2015






Written by Sujani Ganeshanantham, MSc

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