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Chinese researchers say study shows promise in using stem cells to treat chronic liver failure.

Stem cell transfusions may someday replace the need for transplants in patients who suffer from liver failure caused by hepatitis B (HBV), according to a new study coming out of Beijing. More than 500,000 people worldwide die each year from chronic liver disease. "In China, HBV infection accounts for the highest proportion of liver failure cases, said Fu-Sheng Wang, PhD, MD, leader of the study and director of the Research Center for Biological Therapy in Beijing. "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 alternative." MSC's 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 the 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. In addition, no significant side effects were observed throughout the treatment and follow-up period. "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 cells and the best route of administration," said Ming Shi, MD of the research center's Institute of Translational Hepatology. For more information go to:
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Title Annotation:In the October Transplant eNews
Publication:Transplant News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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