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Nat Med. 1999 Feb;5(2):226-30.

Hepatocyte growth factor gene therapy of liver cirrhosis in rats.

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First Department of Surgery, Hyogo College of Medicine, Nishinomiya, Japan.


Liver cirrhosis is the irreversible end result of fibrous scarring and hepatocellular regeneration, characterized by diffuse disorganization of the normal hepatic structure of regenerative nodules and fibrotic tissue. It is associated with prominent morbidity and mortality, and is induced by many factors, including chronic hepatitis virus infections, alcohol drinking and drug abuse. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), originally identified and cloned as a potent mitogen for hepatocytes, shows mitogenic, motogenic and morphogenic activities for a wide variety of cells. Moreover, HGF plays an essential part in the development and regeneration of the liver, and shows anti-apoptotic activity in hepatocytes. In a rat model of lethal liver cirrhosis produced by dimethylnitrosamine administrations, repeated transfections of the human HGF gene into skeletal muscles induced a high plasma level of human as well as enodogenous rat HGF, and tyrosine phosphorylation of the c-Met/HGF receptor. Transduction with the HGF gene also suppressed the increase of transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1), which plays an essential part in the progression of liver cirrhosis, inhibited fibrogenesis and hepatocyte apoptosis, and produced the complete resolution of fibrosis in the cirrhotic liver, thereby improving the survival rate of rats with this severe illness. Thus, HGF gene therapy may be potentially useful for the treatment of patients with liver cirrhosis, which is otherwise fatal and untreatable by conventional therapy.

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