Stem Cell Therapy: A New Approach in Treating Liver Cirrhosis
For the past 50 years, liver cirrhosis has become a common health condition worldwide. This is the result of a global increase in alcohol consumption, fatty liver disease, and viral infection. According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), liver cirrhosis is the cause of more than 33,500 deaths every year in the US. In addition, the disease also contributes to the risk of serious complications such as Hepatocellular Carcinoma.
With such shocking statistics, researchers have been working hard to find out an optimal medical solution to the condition. Recently, stem cell therapy has emerged as a new, yet promising treatment for liver cirrhosis. Compared to conventional methods such as liver transplantation, the use of stem cells boasts various desirable benefits.
Basic knowledge about Liver Cirrhosis
What is Liver Cirrhosis?
As one of the most critical parts of the body, the liver is accountable for a wide range of physiological functions. Specifically, it helps the body digest food, filter toxins out of the blood, fight infections, and store lipid for future use. Factors such as obesity, viral infections, alcohol consumption, and genetic changes may contribute to the risk of liver diseases.
Liver cirrhosis is a hepatic condition that results from liver fibrosis and scarring. As the damaged liver tissues gradually die, patients will experience impairments of the liver’s functions. Other symptoms include yellowish skin, loss of appetite, cognitive deficits, and gastrointestinal problems.
How dangerous is Liver Cirrhosis?
Liver cirrhosis is the result of extreme liver scarring, which can be caused by different factors. Some of the most common reasons include hepatitis, alcohol consumption, autoimmune and fatty liver disease. Generally, the disease will progressively get worse – no matter what the cause is. Once it reaches its end-stage (i.e: decompensated), most patients can only live for another 1-3 years.
If left untreated, scarring in the liver may eventually lead to life-threatening complications such as liver failure and cancer.
How is Liver Cirrhosis treated?
Liver cirrhosis is a dangerous chronic disease. Previously, there was no effective treatment when the disease has progressed to the decompensation stage, which left supportive therapy and protection of existing liver cells as the predominant solutions.
Currently, liver transplantation is the main method of treating decompensated liver cirrhosis; yet it still presents several drawbacks.
- The first disadvantage is the high cost – on average, a patient needs to spend about $150,000 or more in the first year after treatment.
- Secondly, a liver transplant requires a donor (either living or dead). As of now, there has been a critical shortage of donor organs worldwide; hence, many patients have suffered death as a result.
- Next, despite advances in modern medical techniques, allograft rejection is still a risk inherent in liver transplantation – with an occurrence rate that ranges from 20-40%. To ensure the treatment’s success, medications are essential to regulate the immune system’s response.
- After the transplantation process, patients have to undergo immunosuppressive therapies to help the immune system fight complications such as lymphoproliferative disorders.
The many complications associated with transplantation give rise to the need for an alternative method. For years, scientists have been trying to find a non-invasive treatment that does not trigger the immune system’s rejection.
Stem cell therapy – The Revolutionizer of Modern Healthcare
What are Stem cells?
Generally speaking, stem cells are undifferentiated cells that haven’t had any particular function yet. These cells have the ability to multiply themselves indefinitely while still retaining their undifferentiated state. In addition, they are also able to differentiate – change into numerous cell lineages.
For the past 20 years, there has been a massive increase in the clinical use of stem cells. Thanks to their self-renewal and differentiation capability, the transplantation of stem cells provide various beneficial effects for the body. These include immunomodulation, reduced inflammation, and promotion of cell growth.
Up to now, various clinics have been using stem cells to aid in the treatment of different chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart attack, developmental disorders, motor neuron diseases, orthopedic conditions, etc. For liver cirrhosis, many stem cell-based clinical trials have shown very promising results.
Stem cell therapy – A new approach to Liver Cirrhosis treatment
The use of Stem cell therapy for Liver Cirrhosis patients
Among numerous organs of the body, the liver is the only thing that can regenerate itself. Generally, a hepatocyte (i.e: liver cell) lives from 200-300 days. Upon a hepatocyte’s death, others will duplicate themselves to replace the dead cells. In the case of serious injury, oval cells will take the place to repair and regenerate the liver.
Unfortunately, the above-mentioned regeneration ability is not limitless. If left untreated, chronic liver diseases will leave scars in liver tissues. As the intensity of scarring increases over time, the liver will gradually lose the ability to self-repair and function normally. When that happens, stem cell therapy will come in the rescue. Studies have shown that under the right conditions, stem cells such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), can be injected into the body to control hepatic fibrosis, promote cell growth and repair damaged tissues.
How Stem cells work for Liver Cirrhosis
Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) is currently the most widely used type of stem cells in liver cirrhosis treatment due to their ability to develop into multiple functional cells, including those of the liver. After being transplanted into the patient’s body, MSCs aid in the regeneration of damaged tissues by:
- Transforming into parenchymal hepatocytes, hence regaining the liver function. Approximately, it takes 2-3 × 1010 healthy parenchymal hepatocytes to produce a significant impact.
- Secreting cytokines like HGF, IL-6, and IL-10, which then act to prevent fibrogenesis.
- Producing an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase (MMPs), which degrades the extracellular matrix and reduces liver fibrosis.
After stem cell treatment, liver cirrhosis patients may expect to observe the following results:
- Improved liver function;
- Less fatigue;
- Increased level of energy;
- Decreased ascites;
- Improved cognitive functions;
- Reduced hepatic encephalopathy;
- Physical improvements: Less head/neck aches, reduced joint stiffness, etc.
Source: Swiss Medica Clinic
Where can I get Stem cell-based Liver Cirrhosis treatment?
Up to now, there has been strong evidence for the effectiveness of stem cells in treating liver diseases, including cirrhosis. Given enough research, scientists should be able to uncover even more potential of these cells.
At GO.CARE, we have established relationships with a variety of high-quality stem cell centers. Our partners are located across various Asian countries, including Thailand, Japan, and Vietnam. For more information about our stem cell network, please click here.
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Liver Cirrhosis / Stem Cell Therapy. https://globalstemcells.com/treatment/liver-cirrhosis/. Accessed on September 12, 2019.
Stem cell transplantation for the treatment of end-stage liver disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6323519/. Accessed on September 12, 2019.
Efficacy and safety of autologous stem cell transplantation for decompensated liver cirrhosis: A retrospective cohort study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212545/. Accessed on September 12, 2019.
Chronic liver disease: how could regenerative medicine help? https://www.eurostemcell.org/chronic-liver-disease-how-could-regenerative-medicine-help. Accessed on September 12, 2019.
Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for Liver Cirrhosis. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT03626090. Accessed on September 12, 2019.
Could Stem Cell Therapy be the Cure in Liver Cirrhosis? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4491605/. Accessed on September 12, 2019.
Combo Cell Therapy Promotes Healing of Cirrhosis-Damaged Liver. https://stemcellsportal.com/press-releases/combo-cell-therapy-promotes-healing-cirrhosis-damaged-liver. Accessed on September 12, 2019.
Acute allograft rejection in liver transplant recipients: Incidence, risk factors, treatment success, and impact on graft failure. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6136012/. Accessed on September 12, 2019.