Liver's ability to repair itself offers hope

Durgesh Nandan Jha
A unique property of the liver to repair itself has become the most potent weapon in the fight against liver diseases in which a transplant is the only option. All one needs is a little stimulant, say doctors, who claim to have successfully delayed the need for a transplant in many patients. They are now taking their research further to see if organ failure can be reversed using stimulants, also known as growth factors. These include GCSF, which is essentially a cell product that makes the white cells and red blood cell forming growth factor called “darbopoietin“.

“Liver transplantation is the only treatment for patients with chronic liver failure but not all of them get it due to a scarcity of donors. But we were able to prolong the survival of over 100 patients on waiting list for transplant at our hospital using GCSF, in addition to standard medical care.It also helped improve their clinical outcome significantly,“ said Dr Anil Arora, director, Institute of Liver, Gastroenterology and Pancreatico biliary Sciences at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH).

GCSF is an injectable growth factor that stimulates the bone marrow to release stem cells into circulation to repair tissues, including liver, he explained. “While the exact mechanism is not clear, we believe that the growth factors help in regeneration of the liver by mobilising certain cells,“ Arora added. The study has been published in the latest issue of the “European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology“.

Dr S K Sarin, director of In stitute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), said liver can work even if more than 75% of its overall mass is damaged. “This is the reason why one can donate a portion of his or liver to the needy without worrying about any impact on his or her own health.“

At ILBS, doctors have been using GCSF as well as red blood cell forming growth factor called darbopoietin to stimulate regeneration of the liver.

“The results so far are satisfactory for certain group of patients. We hope to save lives of many patients who cannot get a donor immediately ,“ Sarin added.