liver failure

02
Sep 2015
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Dr Karl Fernandeds (CBC News)

Canadian researchers make headway against Alzheimer’s, liver disease

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It has been a very good week for Canadian stem cell researchers, with two significant discoveries.

(Both discoveries show how Canadian scientists rank among the best in the world in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine.

It has been a very good week for Canadian stem cell researchers, with two significant discoveries.

(Both discoveries show how Canadian scientists rank among the best in the world in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Our Foundation advocates for the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan to accelerate the translation of research discoveries into new, safe and effective treatments for a number of diseases. During the election campaign, we’re urging all Canadians to help put stem cells on the government’s agenda.  It only takes two minutes.  Just click here.)

First came news last Thursday that researchers affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre have identified fat droplets in the brains of patients who died from Alzheimer’s disease. These deposits appear to block stem cells from repairing brain tissue, possibly triggering dementia.

The fat deposits have been hiding in plain sight for more than 100 years. “We realized that Dr. Alois Alzheimer himself had noted the presence of lipid accumulations in patients’ brains after their death when he first described the disease in 1906,” says Laura Hamilton, a doctoral student who found fat droplets near the stem cells in the brains of mice predisposed to develop the disease. “But this observation was dismissed and largely forgotten.” Her remarks are highlighted in the research centre’s press release about the discovery.

The findings have implications for treating and potentially curing dementia, which currently affects almost 750,000 people in Canada, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s Mimi Lowli-Young, who was featured in a CBC News report on the discovery. The Alzheimer Society helped fund the work.

The hope is that drugs to block fatty acid build-up, which are now being tested to fight obesity, could also help treat dementia. “We succeeded in preventing these fatty acids from building up in the brains of mice,” explained the University of Montreal’s Dr. Karl Fernandes. “The impact of this treatment on all the aspects of the disease is not yet known, but it significantly increased stem cell activity,”

Finding a treatment is still years away. But the discovery opens a new pathway to combat Alzheimer’s.

The second Canadian accomplishment comes from the lab Dr. Gordon Keller, Director of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto.

A team of clinicians-scientists has found a way to generate 3D bile duct structures from human stem cells. The structures will allow scientists to study bile duct disorders, which cause liver disease, and test new treatments.

“Until now, we have not had a good scientific model to study the human liver’s bile duct system,” explains Dr. Anand Ghanekar, a clinician-scientist at Toronto General Research Institute, in a University Health Network news release. “We need to be able to study a patient’s disease in a dish at the basic cellular and molecular level. Stem cell technology gives us a totally different way of evaluating and then treating these defective cells.”

The discovery also has implications for treating Cystic Fibrosis because many patients with that disease also have defective bile duct function and liver disease.

 

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31
Mar 2015
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Liver failure: the promise of stem cells

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As March makes its exit — like a lion in some regions, like a lamb in others — it’s good to remember that it marked “Liver Health Month,”an initiative to raise awareness of liver diseases.…

As March makes its exit — like a lion in some regions, like a lamb in others — it’s good to remember that it marked “Liver Health Month,”an initiative to raise awareness of liver diseases. Each year the  Canadian Liver Foundation, a national not-for-profit organization established in 1969 to support liver research and education, devotes this month to spreading information about liver health to Canadians.

Liver is the largest solid organ and the biggest reservoir of blood in the body, critical for maintaining overall health. It metabolizes nutrients, removes waste products, filters toxic substances and drugs, maintains the levels of blood sugar, fat and hormones and participates in immune responses.

Hepatocytes are the predominant cell type in the liver and they perform most of its functions. However, their short lifespan requires the liver to constantly regenerate itself in order to remain healthy.

It is estimated that one in 10 Canadians, or around 3 million people, have some form of liver disease. There are over 100 different kinds of liver diseases and the most common forms are viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease and liver cancer. Causes range from alcohol consumption, viruses, obesity, genetics, autoimmune diseases, drugs, toxins.

Liver disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be vague or non-existent until the disease has advanced. Although the liver can continue to function despite a great deal of abuse, once it reaches a state of failure the damage is irreversible.

Currently, the only available treatment is transplantation, but the demand for organs is so high that many people with liver failure die before receiving a donation. While there is no stem cell treatment for liver failure as of yet, stem cells could one day represent a reliable option. Many research teams around the globe are working on developing effective stem cell therapies for liver failure.

In 2013, researchers from Yokohama City University in Japan demonstrated they could produce liver buds, or miniature precursors to human livers, by using stem cells taken from bone marrow, blood vessels and skin cells. When the researchers implanted the buds into the brains of mice, they observed that they connected with the mouse’s blood system. After a couple of months the buds looked and acted like liver and produced liver-specific proteins.

The scientists believe the research is promising, but challenging and it will take to translate this work into a way of growing new livers for patients.

“Testing whether liver buds could help sick patients is years away,” said Professor Takanori Takebe, who led the researchin Nature. “Apart from the need for longer-term experiments in animals, it is not yet possible to make liver buds in quantities sufficient for human transplantation.”

In the meantime, you can find more information about stem cells and liver failure in our Toward Treatments section. Click here to read more.

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