New method to treat acute liver failure

M. Dinesh Varma

Findings presented at scientific meet in Toronto

Disease can be treated with liver cells encapsulated in a synthetic polymer Non-biological material used as substrate to grow human foetal hepatic cells

CHENNAI: Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine, an India-Japan joint venture institute based in Chennai and Centre for Liver Research and Diagnosis, Owaisi Hospital, Hyderabad have jointly developed a method for treating acute liver failure.

The research, which formally started last year, has shown that acute liver failure can be treated effectively with hepatocytes (liver cells) encapsulated in a synthetic (thermoreversible gelation) polymer. C.M. Habibullah of CLRD and Samuel J.K. Abraham of NCRM presented the findings on Friday at the fourth annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cells Research held at Toronto, Canada.

This is said to be the first time that non-biological (totally synthetic) material has been used as a substrate to grow human foetal hepatic cells, cell lines and tissues, including stem cells.

The procedure also avoids biological materials and risk of viral and other dangerous contaminations in such biological materials as well as chances of rejection.

Management of acute liver failure, which affects lakhs of patients in the country annually, has been hampered by the lack of definitive treatment, barring procedures such as extracorporeal liver support or MARS (Molecular Absorbent Recirculatory System) and liver transplantation, a technically demanding and expensive treatment. Besides, the procedures are performed only in a handful of centres in India.

Though CLRD had been using the foetal liver cells taken from aborted foetuses to treat the diseases with partial success, its work in the area had been hampered by the short life span (a few days) of foetal cells inside the body and shortage of foetal liver supply. Ideally, the age of the foetus has to be 18 weeks for it to be suitable for transplantation

`Prolonging life'

"The new approach overcomes these obstacles by first expanding the foetal cells and prolonging their life," Dr. Samuel Abraham said over telephone from Toronto. Research has established that it is viable to expand the foetal liver substance in vitro (in the laboratory) and prolong its life and functional capability in vivo (inside the body). The life span of the foetal cells could be increased up to 30 days. The research adopted the thermogelation polymer-based cell culture technology developed by Yuichi Mori and Hiroshi Yoshioka, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan.

The joint research was undertaken as part of the NCRM's objectives to develop clinically usable stem cells, progenitor cells and cells with regenerative capability, which form the backbone of regenerative medicine.

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