Over the past five decades, liver cirrhosis has become an increasingly prevalent disease and one that will often require considerable medical intervention. However, current treatment options have demonstrated severe problems that have prompted research to provide a suitable alternative. These treatments are scarcely available, very expensive and present at a huge cost to the patient’s quality of life. The introduction of stem cell therapy into liver disease has been heralded as the future of personalized medicine and may be the alternative that the healthcare system desperately seeks.
To truly determine the scientific basis surrounding this excitement, a literature search was carried out in January 2013 to determine all the data that was present in this topic area. All articles also underwent full cross-referencing to ensure no data was missed.
11 clinical trials were found to meet this criteria and trials were included in both English and non-English languages. The sporadic nature of the data across the trials, with various methods and stem cell types, made comparisons difficult.
The basic trends from the data were positive and the majority deemed the use of stem cells safe and feasible in patients presenting with cirrhotic liver disease. However, there is a clear requirement for more research, not only to determine the most efficacious technique and stem cell type but also to further understand stem cells to enhance progress. There may also be a requirement for a framework that future stem cell trials can be based on, which would allow future data to be comparative and allow valid conclusions to be drawn which may propel this therapy into standard clinical practice.
Keywords: liver cirrhosis, stem cell therapy, haematopoetic stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, hepatic progenitor cells
Abbreviations: HSC, Hematopoietic stem cell; MSC, Mesenchymal Stem cell; hHPC, Human Hepatic Progenitor cell; MNC, Mononuclear Stem cell; G-CSF, Granulocyte colony stimulating factor