Sudden liver failure can often only be treated with a liver transplant. Now, researchers at the University of Edinburgh may have found a drug that can provide an alternative. It may allow the liver to regenerate itself.
Sudden liver failure affects around 200 people in the UK every year. It is a life-threatening condition. If a transplant is required, it may require months of waiting until a liver is available. Recovery is a lengthy process and patients will need to take immunosuppressant medication for the rest of their lives. There are also risks of complications such as rejection of the transplanted organ – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/liver-transplant/.
The liver is capable of healing itself from a vast amount of damage. Despite this, severe drug overdoses or other major injuries can cause irreparable harm. Researchers studied the liver to discover why its regenerative capabilities could fail. They discovered that a process called senescence was triggered by severe injuries. Senescence normally occurs as a natural part of ageing. Cells stop working properly as they become old and tired. Severe injuries caused the liver to react as though it had aged. A chemical signal seemed to be responsible.
To try and stop this signal, the researchers used a new cancer drug. They gave mice an overdose of potentially lethal drugs. They then gave them the cancer drug. The mice survived, despite the damage done to their livers. Although the research is in an early stage, scientists think this cancer drug may be able to restore the liver’s regenerative abilities. Adaptive phase 1 clinical studies such as those conducted at adaptive phase 1 clinical studies are just one step on the path to developing safe and efficient treatments.
If the liver can heal itself, it will not need to be replaced with a healthy liver. This reduces the transplant waiting list. It also reduces postoperative requirements. Once the liver is regrown, it does not need the attention a transplanted organ does to prevent rejection. Patients will not need a lifelong course of drugs.
Before the drug can become widely available, it will need to be tested on humans with acute liver failure. There are also hopes that research into senescence may be able to explain why other major organs can fail, particularly in cases of multiple organ failure.