Stem cell research & therapy 2016 Oct 277(1) 157
Liver transplantation is the optimal treatment option for end-stage liver disease, but organ shortages dramatically restrict its application. Donation after cardiac death (DCD) is an alternative approach that may expand the donor pool, but it faces challenges such as graft dysfunction, early graft loss, and cholangiopathy. Moreover, DCD liver grafts are no longer eligible for transplantation after their warm ischaemic time exceeds 30 min. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been proposed as a promising therapy for treatment of certain liver diseases, but the role of MSCs in DCD liver graft function remains elusive.
In this study, we established an arterialized mouse non-heart-beating (NHB) liver transplantation model, and compared survival rates, cytokine and chemokine expression, histology, and the results of in vitro co-culture experiments in animals with or without MSC infusion.
MSCs markedly ameliorated NHB liver graft injury and improved survival post-transplantation. Additionally, MSCs suppressed Kupffer cell apoptosis, Th1/Th17 immune responses, chemokine expression, and inflammatory cell infiltration. In vitro, PGE2 secreted by MSCs inhibited Kupffer cell apoptosis via TLR4-ERK1/2-caspase3 pathway regulation.
Our study uncovers a protective role for MSCs and elucidates the underlying immunomodulatory mechanism in an NHB liver transplantation model. Our results suggest that MSCs are uniquely positioned for use in future clinical studies owing to their ability to protect DCD liver grafts, particularly in patients for whom DCD organs are not an option according to current criteria.