Stem Cell Development Has Revolutionized Heart Failure Treatment
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Worldwide, the kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart. Corneae and musculoskeletal grafts are the most commonly transplanted tissues; these outnumber organ transplants by more than tenfold.
Kidney failure and liver failure therefore represent the most significant areas of organ transplant medicine.
Kidney disease is usually caused by other conditions that put a strain on the kidneys. Often it’s the result of a combination of different problems. These can include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney infections, blockages in the urinary flow, or hereditary conditions such as polycystic kidney disease, where growth called cysts develop in the kidneys.
Kidney disease, is also known as nephropathy or renal disease. Nephritis is inflammatory kidney disease. It can be diagnosed by blood testing. Whilst Nephrosis is noninflammatory kidney disease. Kidney disease of any kind usually causes kidney failure to some degree, with the amount depending on the type of disease.
Liver failure can be as a result of a number of conditions including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, long-term alcohol consumption, or cirrhosis, or inherited disorders such as hemochromatosis (where the body absorbs and stores too much iron).
In severe cases such as Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) or Chronic Liver Disease (CLD) often the only available remaining outcome is transplantation.
Transplantation medicine is one of the most challenging and complex areas of modern medicine. Some of the key areas for medical management are the problems of transplant rejection. This is where the body has an immune response to the transplanted organ, possibly leading to transplant failure and the need to immediately remove the organ from the recipient.
This type of rejection is known as Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and relates to medical complications following the receipt of transplanted tissue from a genetically different person.
Traditionally this risk of transplant rejection has been reduced through serotyping to determine the most appropriate donor-recipient match and through the use of immunosuppressant drugs. Though it is now recognised that an autologous stem cell transplant (using the individuals own stem cells) offers an advantage in this regard, that the body recognizes the cells and therefore does not reject or attack them. In addition, autologous transplants avoid the sometimes difficult process of finding a matching donor for stem cell treatment.
Worldwide the requirements for liver and kidney transplant operations are increasing and the numbers of available and suitable donors does not always keep pace with the demand. In the US there are currently 121,678 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. Of these, 100,791 await kidney transplants, with a median wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant of 3.6 years, which can vary depending on health, compatibility and availability of organs. Over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month and 13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
The statistics for liver transplants, whilst smaller in number, represents a similar picture. As of early 2015 an estimated 17,000 people were awaiting a liver transplant and according to the American Liver Foundation 6,000 liver transplant surgeries are performed in the United States every year.
In recent years stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, has promoted the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. For many it is the next chapter of organ transplantation and the use of stem cells instead of or alongside donor organs, which are limited in supply, is becoming more of a reality.
For example, scientists have already made pieces of human liver from stem cells and, by transplanting them into mice, have shown they behave like healthy organs.
The work marks a world first for the field of regenerative medicine, which to date has promised so much but until this point had failed to produce the major achievement of a complex organ that connects to a recipient’s blood supply.
This feat has bolstered hopes that stem cells will lead to revolutionary therapies that are less dependent on donors, by repairing or replacing damaged organs with tissue grown fresh in the laboratory.
Experts agree that this breakthrough could transform the treatment of many patients with liver failure, though it may not be ready for clinics for another 10 years, the scientists added.
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