Human umbilical cord matrix stem cells efficiently rescue acute liver failure through paracrine effects rather than hepatic differentiation

Shichang Zhang, Li Chen, Tao Liu, Bo Zhang, Dedong Xiang, Zhengguo Wang, Yingjie Wang
Tissue Engineering. Part A 2012, 18 (13-14): 1352-64
There is increasing evidence that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from different tissues could act as an alternative source of mature hepatocytes for treatment of acute liver failure (ALF). Human umbilical cord matrix stem cells (hUCMSCs) represent a novel source of MSCs. We examined the therapeutic potential and the different mechanisms of hUCMSCs by their transplantation into nonobese diabetic severe combined-immunodeficient (NOD-SCID) mice with carbon tetrachloride (CCl(4))-induced ALF in comparison to adult human hepatocytes (AHHs). The characteristics of isolated hUCMSCs were determined from MSCs and hepatocyte marker expression, hepatic function, and differentiation. Native hUCMSCs constitutively expressed some hepatic markers, though weaker hepatocyte-specific functions were observed when compared to AHHs. When native hUCMSCs or AHHs were transplanted into livers of NOD-SCID mice with ALF induced by CCl(4), both hUCMSCs and AHHs provided a significant survival benefit and prevented the release of liver injury biomarkers. hUCMSCs were found to engraft within the recipient liver and differentiated into functional hepatocytes, whereas the HepPar1-/albumin (ALB)-positive cells of the hUCMSC group were less than the AHH group in the recipient liver. Higher values of human ALB in the serum of mice-transplanted AHHs were determined in comparison with levels in mice-transplanted hUCMSCs. The analysis of mouse serum cytokine levels showed that hUCMSC transplantation was even more effective than treatment with AHHs and successfully downregulated the systemic inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, IL-6, IL-10, and IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA). Furthermore, paracrine effects produced by hUCMSCs were identified by indirect coculture with damaged mouse hepatocytes (MHs) induced by CCl(4). Coculture with hUCMSCs significantly increased the viability, ALB secretion of damaged MHs, and greatly enhanced the regeneration of MHs in vitro when compared with AHHs. These data suggest that direct transplantation of native hUCMSCs can rescue ALF and repopulate livers of mice through paracrine effects to stimulate endogenous liver regeneration rather than hepatic differentiation for compensated liver function, which is the primary effect of AHHs. Thus, hUCMSCs can be a potential alternative source of AHHs for cell therapy of ALF and eliminate the shortage of hepatocytes.

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