Cytonet’s liver cell preparation may soon provide a new treatment option for certain life-threatening liver diseases. Liver cell therapy is currently being tested for the treatment of congenital metabolic disorders of the liver in newborns and young children, within the framework of SELICA V (formerly SELICA II). The preparation is made from so-called ‘human heterologous liver cells’, i. e. the liver cells are extracted from non-transplantable donor livers. Four children with life-threatening urea cycle disorders have been successfully treated with Cytonet’s liver cell preparation since the beginning of 2007 – at Heidelberg University Pediatric Hospital, Hanover Medical School (MHH) and Padua University Pediatric Hospital. Multi-centric clinical trials for newborns and children with congenital hepatometabolic disorders are in progress in Germany and the USA. In these so-called ‘urea cycle disorders’, an enzyme defect in the liver prevents the breakdown of ammonia, a toxic by-product of protein metabolism, to urea, which is not toxic.
Several adult patients suffering from acute liver failure have also been successfully treated with liver cell therapy in individual cases. The method was first used in a 64-year-old female patient who had fallen into a life-threatening coma after eating poisonous death cap mushrooms. Led by Prof. Dr. Michael Manns and Prof. Dr. Michael Ott, the medical team in charge of treatment at Hanover Medical School (MHH) decided to use Cytonet’s liver cell preparation. Just two weeks after being treated, the patient had recovered and was able to be discharged from the hospital.
The liver cells, which are normally injected into the diseased organ through a catheter, replace the hepatic functions that had been altered or lost. In treatment of hepatometabolic disorders in neonates, the allogenic liver cells maintain this substitution function until the infants are old enough for a liver transplant. In cases of acute hepatic failure, the allogenic liver cells perform the function of the diseased organ until the patient’s liver has regenerated to the point at which it can resume its original functionality.
This simple, minimally invasive and comparatively therapeutic option opens up entirely new perspectives in treatment of severe hepatic diseases.