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Abstract

Alternative methods to whole liver transplantation require a suitable cell that can be expanded to obtain sufficient numbers required for successful transplantation while maintaining the ability to differentiate into hepatocytes. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) possess several advantageous characteristics for cell-based therapy and have been shown to be able to differentiate into hepatocytes. Thus, we investigated whether the intrahepatic delivery of human MSCs is a safe and effective method for generating human hepatocytes and whether the route of administration influences the levels of donor-derived hepatocytes and their pattern of distribution throughout the parenchyma of the recipient's liver. Human clonally derived MSCs were transplanted by an intraperitoneal (n = 6) or intrahepatic (n = 6) route into preimmune fetal sheep. The animals were analyzed 56–70 days after transplantation by immunohistochemistry, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and flow cytometry. The intrahepatic injection of human MSCs was safe and resulted in more efficient generation of hepatocytes (12.5% ± 3.5% versus 2.6% ± 0.4%). The animals that received an intrahepatic injection exhibited a widespread distribution of hepatocytes throughout the liver parenchyma, whereas an intraperitoneal injection resulted in a preferential periportal distribution of human hepatocytes that produced higher amounts of albumin. Furthermore, hepatocytes were generated from MSCs without the need to first migrate/lodge to the bone marrow and give rise to hematopoietic cells. Conclusion: Our studies provide evidence that MSCs are a valuable source of cells for liver repair and regeneration and that, by the alteration of the site of injection, the generation of hepatocytes occurs in different hepatic zones, suggesting that a combined transplantation approach may be necessary to successfully repopulate the liver with these cells. (HEPATOLOGY 2007.)