by Zhu Li, Juan Chen, Li Li, Jiang-Hua Ran, Xue-Hua Li, Zhi-Heng Liu, Gui-Jie Liu, Yan-Chao Gao, Xue-Li Zhang, Hiu-Dong Sun
Despite progress in the field of immunosuppression, acute rejection is still a common postoperative complication following liver transplantation. This study aims to investigate the capacity of the human hepatocyte growth factor (hHGF) in modifying hepatic oval cells (HOCs) administered simultaneously with orthotopic liver transplantation as a means of improving graft survival. HOCs were activated and isolated using a modified 2-acetylaminofluorene/partial hepatectomy (2-AAF/PH) model in male Lewis rats. A HOC line stably expressing the HGF gene was established following stable transfection of the pBLAST2-hHGF plasmid. Our results demonstrated that hHGF-modified HOCs could efficiently differentiate into hepatocytes and bile duct epithelial cells in vitro. Administration of HOCs at the time of liver transplantation induced a wider distribution of SRY-positive donor cells in liver tissues. Administration of hHGF-HOC at the time of transplantation remarkably prolonged the median survival time and improved liver function for recipients compared to these parameters in the other treatment groups (P<0.05). Moreover, hHGF-HOC administration at the time of liver transplantation significantly suppressed elevation of interleukin-2 (IL-2), tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a) and interferon-? (IFN-?) levels while increasing the production of IL-10 and TGF-ß1 (P<0.05). HOC or hHGF-HOC administration promoted cell proliferation, reduced cell apoptosis, and decreased liver allograft rejection rates. Furthermore, hHGF-modified HOCs more efficiently reduced acute allograft rejection (P<0.05 versus HOC transplantation only). Our results indicate that the combination of hHGF-modified HOCs with liver transplantation decreased host anti-graft immune responses resulting in a reduction of allograft rejection rates and prolonging graft survival in recipient rats. This suggests that HOC-based cell transplantation therapies can be developed as a means of treating severe liver injuries.