At present, the most successful treatment of acute liver failure is orthotopic liver transplantation, with survival rates ranging from 70% to 85%. However, mortality rates for liver failure remain high because of the shortage of available donor organs. Therefore, there has been renewed interest in temporary treatment methods for patients with acute liver failure to either allow liver regeneration or await liver transplantation. It is thought that the function of the liver can only be replaced with the biological substrate, e.g. liver cells or a whole liver specimen, which requires the availability of liver tissue from xenogeneic or human sources. In this review, existing temporary liver support techniques are summarized and the potential hazards are described. These include the immunological implications of these techniques, e.g. the host versus graft reaction, which may influence the effectivity of the support system, and in the long run may sensitize the patient to subsequent allogeneic transplantation. The graft versus host reaction is also considered. At present, one of the major concerns is the threat of pig-to-human transmission of activated endogenous retrovirus present in the pig genome. An overview is given of literature concerning the transmission of retrovirus particles in vitro and in vivo. Finally, new solutions for the development of ex vivo systems for temporary treatment of patients with acute liver failure are discussed. These include the use of new immortalized human cell lines and human fetal hepatocytes, and the possibility of isolating, expanding and genetically manipulating stem cells in order to have stable differentiated and committed cells.

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European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Department of Surgery

Stockmann, H., & IJzermans, J. (2002). Prospects for the temporary treatment of acute liver failure. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Vol. 14, pp. 195–203). doi:10.1097/00042737-200202000-00016