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Background: Effective treatments for acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) are lacking. Human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hUC-MSCs) have been applied in tissue regeneration and repair, acting through paracrine effects, cell fusion, and actual transdifferentiation. The present study was designed to investigate the therapeutic potential of hUC-MSCs in acute-on-chronic liver injury (ACLI) and ACLF rat models. Methods: Wistar rats aged 6 weeks were intraperitoneally administered porcine serum (PS) at a dose of 0.5 mL twice per week for 11 weeks to generate an immune liver fibrosis model. After 11 weeks, rats with immune liver fibrosis were injected intravenously with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to induce an ACLI model or combined LPS and D-galactosamine (D-GalN) to induce an ACLF model. The rats with ACLI or ACLF were injected intravenously with 2×106 hUC-MSCs, 4×106 hUC-MSCs, or 0.9% sodium chloride as a control. The rats were sacrificed at 1, 2, 4, and 6 weeks (ACLI rats) or 4, 12, and 24 h (ACLF rats). The blood and liver tissues were collected for biochemical and histological investigation. Results: The application of hUC-MSCs in rats with ACLI and ACLF led to a significant decrease in the serum levels of ALT, AST, TBil, DBil, ALP, ammonia, and PT, with ALB gradually returned to normal levels. Inflammatory cell infiltration and collagen fiber deposition in liver tissues were significantly attenuated in ACLI rats that received hUC-MSCs. Inflammatory cell infiltration and apoptosis in liver tissues of ACLF rats that received hUC-MSCs were significantly attenuated. Compared with those in the rats that received 0.9% sodium chloride, a significant reduction in proinflammatory cytokine levels and elevated serum levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) were found in ACLF rats that received hUC-MSCs. Furthermore, Notch, IFN-γ/Stat1, and IL-6/Stat3 signaling were inhibited in ACLI/ACLF rats that received hUC-MSCs. Conclusions: hUC-MSC transplantation can improve liver function, the degree of fibrosis, and liver damage and promote liver repair in rats with ACLI or ACLF, mediated most likely by inhibiting Notch signaling and reversing the imbalance of the Stat1/Stat3 pathway.
He, Y., Guo, X., Lan, T., Xia, J., Wang, J., Li, B., … Meng, Z. (2021). Human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells improve the function of liver in rats with acute-on-chronic liver failure via downregulating Notch and Stat1/Stat3 signaling. Stem Cell Research and Therapy, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13287-021-02468-6