The liver cells in our body secrete a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) into the bloodstream, from where it travels to the lungs to protect them and ensure proper functioning of the lungs. Without enough AAT, the lungs could be damaged, resulting in breathing difficulties.� In case of an individual with AATD, either one or both the AAT genes are mutated or damaged. This results in a mutant AAT protein that gets accumulated in the liver cells, instead of being secreted into the blood, hence affecting both the liver and the lungs. In severe cases, AATD can lead to liver cancer and chronic asthma.
Researchers in this study used mice that had the mutant AAT as a model. The study was conducted in two stages. In the first stage, they tested the effects of transplanting the bone marrow - stem cells from healthy mice into the affected mice. In the second stage, they tested the effects of transplanting human bone marrow stem cells into the affected mice. Each stage comprised of mice that received the transplanted cells (treatment group) and those that did not (control group). A subset of mice in both the groups was euthanized 1, 3 and 6 months post the treatment, to analyse how the disease had progressed.
The researchers found both the treatment stages yielded extremely positive results. As compared to the control, there was a significant reduction in the number of liver cells containing the aggregated AAT in the treatment groups. The overall condition of the liver was found to be better, with reduced inflammation, fibrosis and cell death. They also found that an improvement in the metabolic activity of the liver leading to higher glycogen level and improved blood glucose levels.
In addition, the researchers observed the transplanted bone marrow stem cells, both from mice and humans, developed into to healthy liver cells in the affected mice and outcompeted the diseased host liver cells. They were free from accumulated AAT, resulting in improved liver conditions.
?Improvement in liver pathology and secretion of good AAT protein in the recipient mice suggest that bone marrow stem cell therapy has a great potential to treat both liver and lung ailments, if successfully translated to the clinic,? said Dr. Ashok Mukhopadhyaya, lead scientist of the study. �?However, pre-clinical toxicity and safety study will be the immediate next steps before clinical trial.?
Source: Research Matters
Image courtesy: Research Matters
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