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Hepatobiliary Surg Nutr. 2013 Apr;2(2):68-77. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2304-3881.2012.10.11.

Expression of vascular endothelial growth factors and their receptors by hepatic progenitor cells in human liver diseases.

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Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic Medicine and Orthopedic Sciences, University of Rome "Sapienza", Rome, Italy; ; Eleonora Lorillard Spencer-Cenci Foundation, Rome, Italy;
Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy;
Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic Medicine and Orthopedic Sciences, University of Rome "Sapienza", Rome, Italy;
Department of Health Science, University of Rome "Foro Italico", Italy;
Eleonora Lorillard Spencer-Cenci Foundation, Rome, Italy; ; Department of Medico-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies, Polo Pontino, Sapienza, University of Rome "Sapienza" Rome, Italy.


Hepatic stem/progenitor cells (HPCs) are stem cells residing in the most peripheral branches of the biliary tree; these cells are able to differentiate towards mature hepatocyte or mature cholangiocyte; moreover in normal conditions, they are mostly quiescent cells. HPC activation has been involved in the progression of chronic parenchymal diseases (chronic viral hepatitis) and chronic biliary diseases (such as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis: PBC) and in the occurrence of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. The HPCs participate in the repair of liver damage either through the replacement of dead cells or by driving fundamental repair processes, including fibrosis and angiogenesis. Little information exists regarding the expression of VEGF by HPC in the course of liver non-malignant pathologies. In this study, we evaluated: (I) the presence of HPCs in PBC and HCV-related Cirrhosis (HCV-C) samples, and (II) the expression of VEGFs and VEGF-Rs in PBC and HCV-C samples. Our results showed (I) PBC samples presented a more extensive expansion of HPC population in comparison with those of HCV-C samples; (II) PBC samples showed a more extensive angiogenesis if compared to HCV-C; and (III) PBC samples were characterized by an increased expression of VEGF-A and VEGF-C if compared to HCV-C and the number of HPCs expressing VEGFs was correlated with the extension of ductular reaction and angiogenesis. The role of VEGFs in the expansion of HPC niche could have important implication in the management of fibrogenic processes and carcinogenesis.


Angiogenesis; ductular reaction; primary biliary cirrhosis; stem cells

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