London: A groundbreaking cell therapy has significantly reduced severe liver-related complications, which could otherwise result in hospitalization and death, for patients with liver scarring, or cirrhosis. Developed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, this innovative approach utilizes macrophage immune cells—cells associated with tissue repair—derived from the patient's own cells to treat cirrhosis. The therapy underwent testing in a clinical study involving 50 patients in Scotland with cirrhosis stemming from various factors like alcohol, fatty-liver disease, and viral hepatitis.
Presented at the 2023 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) conference in Boston, the data revealed that the treatment substantially decreased severe liver-related complications over the one-year study period, complications that often lead to hospitalization and death. Professor Stuart Forbes, a clinical hepatologist from the university who led the trial, expressed optimism about the results, stating, "We are encouraged by the new results. This trial shows the treatment is well tolerated and is associated with reducing the clinical complications in patients with end-stage liver disease."
During the trial, 26 patients received the macrophage treatment, while the remaining 24 in the control group received standard medical care. After one year, none of the 26 patients treated with macrophages experienced liver-related clinical events. In contrast, the control group saw four out of the 24 patients develop severe liver-related adverse events, resulting in three deaths.
Chronic liver diseases and associated cirrhosis are prevalent and deadly conditions, contributing to approximately one million deaths globally each year. Causes of liver cirrhosis encompass infections like hepatitis C, obesity, alcohol excess, and certain genetic and immune conditions. Published in Nature Medicine, the results of this study suggest that the treatment may delay the need for a liver transplant—the current exclusive treatment for advanced liver disease, but one constrained by organ availability, patient eligibility, and intricate aftercare.