Cell Transplant 2010 4;19(9):1157-68. Epub 2010 May 4.
Centre for Reproduction & Development, Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.
Chronic liver injury and inflammation lead to hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Embryonic and mesenchymal stem cells have been shown to reduce experimental liver fibrosis but have potential limitations, including the formation of dysplastic precursors, tumors, and profibrogenic cells. Other stem-like cells may reduce hepatic inflammation and fibrosis without tumor and profibrogenic cell formation. To test this hypothesis we transplanted human amnion epithelial cells (hAEC), isolated from term delivered placenta, into immunocompetent C57/BL6 mice at week 2 of a 4-week regimen of carbon tetrachloride (CCl₄) exposure to induce liver fibrosis. Two weeks following hAEC infusion, intact cells expressing the human-specific markers inner mitochondrial membrane protein and human leukocyte antigen-G were found in mouse liver without evidence of host rejection of the transplanted cells. Human albumin, known to be produced by hAEC, was detected in sera of hAEC-treated mice. Human DNA was detected in mouse liver and also spleen, lungs, and heart of some animals. Following hAEC transplantation, CCl₄-treated animals showed decreased serum ALT levels and reduced hepatocyte apoptosis, compared to controls. hAEC-treated mouse liver had lower TNF-α and IL-6 protein levels and higher IL-10 compared to animals given CCl₄ alone. Compared to CCl₄ controls, hAEC-treated mice showed fewer activated collagen-producing hepatic stellate cells and less fibrosis area and collagen content. Reduced hepatic TGF-β levels in conjunction with a twofold increase in the active form of the collagen-degrading enzyme matrix metalloproteinase-2 in hAEC-treated mice compared to CCl₄ controls may account for the reduction in fibrosis. hAEC transplantation into immunocompetent mice leads to cell engraftment, reduced hepatocyte apoptosis, and decreased hepatic inflammation and fibrosis.