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Liver Transpl. 2013 Feb;19(2):215-25. doi: 10.1002/lt.23577.

Mesenchymal stem cells overexpressing C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 improve early liver regeneration of small-for-size liver grafts.

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Department of General Surgery, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.


Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy can prevent hepatic parenchymal cell loss and promote tissue repair. However, poor MSC engraftment is one of the primary barriers to the effectiveness of cell therapy because culture-expanded MSCs progressively down-regulate C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4) expression and lose their ability to migrate toward a concentration gradient of stromal cell-derived factor 1a (SDF1a). In this study, we investigated whether a CXCR4-MSC infusion could protect hepatocytes and stimulate regeneration in 50% reduced size liver transplantation (RSLT). Rats that underwent 50% RSLT were randomly divided into 3 groups: a phosphate-buffered solution group (PBS), a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-MSC group, and a CXCR4-MSC group. Rats received 1 mL of PBS with or without a resuspension of GFP-MSCs or CXCR4-MSCs. The factors secreted by MSCs, the graft function, the apoptosis and proliferation of hepatocytes, the efficacy of MSC engraftment, and the expression of SDF1α, albumin (Alb), and cytokeratin 18 (CK18) in engrafted GFP-positive MSCs were assessed. A systemic infusion of GFP-MSCs led to a reduction of the release of liver injury biomarkers and apoptosis of hepatocytes; CXCR4 overexpression did not further reduce the liver injury. However, CXCR4 overexpression enhanced MSC engraftment in liver grafts, improved the effect on the proliferation of hepatocytes, and thus provided a significant 1-week survival benefit. SDF1α expression in grafts was elevated after transplanted CXCR4-MSCs were recruited to the remnant liver. However, engrafted MSCs did not express the markers of hepatocytes, including Alb and CK18, in vivo 168 hours after transplantation. CXCR4 overexpression enhanced the mobilization and engraftment of MSCs into small-for-size liver grafts, in which these cells promoted the early regeneration of the remnant liver not by direct differentiation but perhaps by a paracrine mechanism.

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