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Clin Liver Dis. 2003 Feb;7(1):107-25.

Hepatitis C virus in the human liver transplantation model.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Liver Transplantation Program, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97207, USA.


Hepatitis C virus-related liver failure is the single leading indication for liver transplantation, and the study of HCV in the transplant setting has enhanced the understanding of the natural history of disease and putative mechanisms by which HCV causes liver injury. In a subset of patients, allograft cirrhosis develops within a few years after transplantation, and recent findings suggest these individuals are immunologically impaired compared with individuals with mild HCV recurrence at long-term follow-up. Fig. 9 shows a conceptual paradigm of mechanisms potentially involved in shaping HCV outcome after transplantation. It is possible that relative antiviral control by innate and adaptive immune responses (to maintain HCV replication below a certain threshold) prevents direct cytopathic injury and induction of oxidative stress and apoptosis of cells. Additional phenomena that may contribute to induction of apoptosis (eg, genetic polymorphisms within the donor organ. CMV coinfection, and ischemic-preservation injury) may augment the initial cascade of liver injury. Recruitment to the allograft of nonspecific cells may decrease viral replication by way of noncytolytic mechanisms or augment viral replication (eg, Th2 phenotype) and direct cytopathic injury. The immune response is likely insufficiently vigorous to keep viral replication under control, but may maintain chronic liver injury. The liver transplant model is unique in that distinct phenotypic outcomes can be observed over a short period of time. A consideration of the temporal evolution of different mechanisms is also important, because mechanisms that initially predominate may become less important over time, and conversely, as suggested with the inverse correlation between viral load at 5 years and allograft fibrosis, new immune responses may emerge that modify the host-virus interaction. Prospective characterization of the immunoregulatory and virologic mechanisms involved in the liver transplantation model hopefully will help unravel the causal basis of reported associations, lead to the development of highly specific therapeutic strategies, and ultimately diminish the rate of graft loss from recurrent disease.

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