Transplanted Liver Cells May Provide Treatment Option for End-Stage Liver Disease
Five U.S. Centers Experimenting With Cell Transplant
WebMD News Archive
Although the results are encouraging, Culp and Tisnado caution that their
work is still experimental. At Virginia, Tisnado is developing a technique to
freeze and bank the liver cells while the Nebraska team is "using cells
harvested from excess liver tissue [from a] transplant." Livers, Culp and
Tisnado explain, sometimes need to be pared down to "fit" the
In other instances, cells are harvested from livers that may be damaged from
trauma and thus are not suitable for transplant but could be used as a source
for liver cells. Importantly, Tisnado says that a single liver used as a source
for transplantable cells could provide enough cells "for 20 people or maybe
more." That is significant considering the mathematics of liver
transplantation: about 5,000 patients receive liver transplants each year, but
15,000 are waiting for donor organs. Many of those who are waiting for livers
will die while waiting, says Tisnado.
The cell transplant procedure is a work in progress. For example, patients
who receive cell transplants need to receive immunosuppressive medications to
keep the body from rejecting the cells. In adults, it appears that full
immunosuppression is necessary, but in children it appears that the level of
suppression can be scaled down, says Culp.
Currently, there are about five U.S. centers working on perfecting the liver
cell transplant procedure, says Tisnado. He says the technique was developed in
Europe by a team of German researchers but adds that U.S. researchers have been
involved in animal studies of the technique "for about 10 years."
- Each year, only a fraction of end-stage liver disease patients who are
awaiting a transplant will receive one, and many of the remaining patients will
- A new technique of transplanting liver cells into these patients can be
either a bridge to recovery or a bridge to transplant.
- Donor liver cells can be collected from donated organs that are pared down
or unsuitable for whole transplant.