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Abstract

We have recently found the presence of human hepa-tocyte growth factor in sera of patients with fulminant hepatic failure and have purified human hepatocyte growth factor from plasma of a patient with fulminant hepatic failure. In this paper, we report the clinical significance of human hepatocyte growth factor in blood from patients with fulminant hepatic failure. The effect of sera or plasma from 17 patients with fulminant he-patic failure on liver cell growth was examined by use of adult rat hepatocytes in primary culture. Sera or plasma from 16 of the 17 patients with fulminant he-patic failure stimulated DNA synthesis in hepatocytes more effectively than normal human serum. The mean growth-promoting activity for the 17 patients with fulminant hepatic failure was about 16 times higher than that obtained for normal human serum. This growth-promoting activity of the patients'blood was not related to sex, age, clinical outcome of the patients or type of fulminant hepatic failure, but was intimately related to the clinical grade of hepatic coma. Sera or plasma with Grade III and IV coma showed stimulatory activity on DNA synthesis more markedly than sera or plasma from patients with coma of less than Grade II. In the surviving group, this activity decreased as the hepatic coma of patients improved. In fact, this activity of sera from patients at the recovery stage showed no significant increase compared with that of normal human serum. In the group of terminal patients, this activity increased as the coma developed. These results suggest that human hepatocyte growth factor in blood from patients with fulminant hepatic failure is a physiological hepato-trophic factor and plays an important role in liver regeneration of patients.