Hepatocyte transplantation



Numerous laboratory studies have shown that hepatocyte transplantation may serve as an alternative to organ transplantation for patients with life-threatening liver disease. Because of the successes of experimental hepatocyte transplantation, institutions have attempted to use this therapy in the clinic for the treatment of a variety of hepatic diseases. Unfortunately, unequivocal evidence of transplanted human hepatocyte function has been obtained in only one patient with Crigler-Najjar syndrome type I, and, even then, the amount of bilirubin-UGT enzyme activity derived from the transplanted cells was not sufficient to eliminate the patient's eventual need for organ transplantation. A roadmap for improving patient outcome following hepatocyte transplantation can be obtained by a re-examination of previous animal research. A better understanding of the factors that allow hepatocyte integration and survival in the liver and spleen is needed to help reduce the need for repeated cell infusions and multiple donors. Although clinical evidence of hepatocyte function can be used to indicate function of transplanted hepatocytes, definitive histologic evidence is difficult to obtain. In order to assess whether rejection is taking place in a timely fashion, a reliable way of detecting donor hepatocytes will be needed. The most important issue affecting transplantation, however, relates to donor availability. Alternatives to the transplantation of allogeneic human hepatocytes include transplantation of hepatocytes derived from fetal, adult or embryonic stem cells, engineered immortalized cells, or hepatocytes derived from other animal species.