[MOL] Some good news on liver cells..... [02950] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] Some good news on liver cells.....

 Health News

Study: Liver Cells From Bone Marrow

June 27, 2000

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Liver cells have been found to come from an unlikely source - bone marrow - raising the possibility that people with hepatitis and other liver diseases could somehow use their own cells to heal themselves, a new study found.

The study also increases the understanding of stem cells: free-agent cells in the body that scientists believe have the capacity to convert into several kinds of organ cells.

"This breaks all the boundaries we're taught in medical school. This isn't supposed to happen," said researcher Dr. Neil Thiese. "Organs are separate things - they work together, but one does not become the other - that's always how we've looked at it."

The study by Thiese, from the New York University School of Medicine, and Dr. Diane Krause, from the Yale School of Medicine, was published this month in the journal Hepatology.

Krause said Monday that the discovery has definite benefits for people with liver disorders.

It's not that far-fetched to think that doctors will be able to take bone marrow from a patient with a liver condition, treat it and put it back into the patient so the new cells can treat the person's own liver, Krause said.

"The clinical applications are not difficult to imagine. I'm certain this will come to fruition. I'm not sure when," she said.

The study used female patients who had undergone bone marrow transplants from male donors, and male liver disease patients who had liver transplants from female donors.

A green-glowing stain was used to light up the Y chromosomes in the cells - chromosomes that are found only in men. Researchers could analyze the livers of the test subjects to see where the liver cells were coming from.

Doctors found that the women who got bone marrow transplants from men had some Y-chromosome liver cells. In one woman, 17 percent of her liver cells were male a year after the bone marrow transplant.

The only place the Y-chromosome cells could have come from was the male bone marrow, the study said.

The men, who got liver transplants from female donors, also had Y-chromosome liver cells on their female livers. In one man, 40 percent of his liver had Y chromosomes.

The liver has long been known to regenerate and repair itself, but it was assumed before that the new cells were just coming from the liver, Thiese said.

The liver is the body's main chemical factory. It regulates the levels of chemicals in the blood, helps filter out poisons and produces proteins for blood plasma that help the immune system and help blood coagulate.

Diseases that affect the liver include hepatitis, which comes in various strains and appears in epidemic proportions in the U.S.

Dr. Adrian Di Bisceglie, the medical director of the American Liver Foundation, said the study may lead to practical applications someday to help people who have liver ailments.

"Obviously, there's a leap from these data to clinical applications," he said.

For people with genetic liver problems, gene therapy may be possible, where a person's own stem cells could be modified to carry the correct gene to the liver and repopulate it, Di Bisceglie said.

For people with hepatitis or who have liver damage from drugs or alcohol, it may be possible some day to repopulate their livers with healthy cells derived from their own stem cells.

This technique would differ from a regular liver transplant from a donor, which carries the risk that the body would reject the organ.

The American Liver Foundation and the Mary Lea Johnson Richards Research Foundation paid for the study.

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