Liver cirrhosis is one of the complications of liver disease. It involves the loss of function of the liver cells, also known as liver cells. This is usually associated with the irreversible scarring of the liver. Even though all the human body parts are important, the liver plays a crucial role in the body. It’s basically the body’s powerhouse, apart from the brain and the heart. It helps in the metabolism of food substances, neutralizing toxic substances that we consume, synthesizes plasma proteins, produces bile and so on. The body would be incapacitated without this organ, and this is why any damage to the liver is most times life-threatening if not well managed. The liver, once damaged, is usually not capable of regenerating. Patients suffering from chronic and severe liver diseases most times have to rely on transplantation. However, the downside to this procedure is that the demand surpasses the supply by a wide margin. Patients in need of liver would have to wait for months, even when they don’t have a lot of time. Apart from the unavailability of livers, there is another problem with rejection. Sometimes, the body immune system of the recipient rejects the liver, creating another crisis to be managed. Medicine has had limitations in the management of liver diseases. Stem cell therapy has a lot of potentials and has seemed to be a good alternative to the current method of treating liver diseases. Signaling cells, also known as exosomes have also shown potential in the treatment of this disease.
What Is Liver Cirrhosis?
Liver cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver is not capable of performing its function well, as a result of a long-term damage. The liver tissues are gradually replaced by fibrous tissues. It’s usually the late stage of liver fibrosis. Liver cirrhosis doesn’t just happen; it could take months to years to fully develop. The individuals affected usually don’t show any symptoms until it exacerbates. Some of the symptoms of liver cirrhosis include fatigue, yellow skin, edema in the limbs, ascites, bleeding and so on. Liver cirrhosis can be caused by a lot of things, but at the top of the list is alcohol. Other causes of this disease are infections, fatty liver disease, obesity, auto-immune diseases, gallstones etc.
Causes Of Liver Cirrhosis
There are a lot of conditions that could lead to the development of liver cirrhosis. Some of them are;
- Alcohol abuse: This is common to those who consume a large amount of alcohol, consistently, for a long time. According to statistics, up to 40% of liver cirrhosis cases are connected to alcohol abuse. Alcohol damages the liver by inhibiting the normal digestion and metabolism of food substances such as carbohydrates, fats, and Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is associated with an elevated amount of alanine transaminase and aspartate transaminase. However, for liver cirrhosis to occur, the person must have consistently abused alcohol for years, most times above ten years.
- Viral infection: Hepatitis is a viral disease that affects the liver. It causes the inflammation of the liver. There are about 5 types of hepatitis, and these are Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. However, only hepatitis Band C can lead to liver cirrhosis, because they’re the only chronic form of the disease. Hepatitis C virus does a lot of destruction to the liver, and patients can be gotten by having a blood to blood contact with someone that has it. This can be either by sharing the same needle or having sexual intercourse with an infected person. Babies can also get this disease from their mother through vertical transmission. The same applies for hepatitis B. These diseases when left without proper treatment for a long time, eventually develops into liver cirrhosis.
- Autoimmune disease: An autoimmune disease is one in which the body immune system fails to recognize a certain body tissue, and starts attacking it. The immune system treats the body tissue like it’s a foreign substance, and unleashes its defense and attack mechanism on it. This is what happens in autoimmune hepatitis. The body T cells attack the liver, causing the various level of inflammation, and leading to scarring, and eventually liver cirrhosis.
- Hemochromatosis: This is a condition in which there is an excessive amount of iron in the blood. Patients usually present with hyperpigmentation of the skin, some heart-related conditions and so on. This disease increases the risk of having liver cirrhosis if not managed on time.
- Wilson’s disease: This is a condition in which the body has a low amount of ceruloplasmin. This biological chemical is important for the metabolism of copper. This disease leads to the accumulation of huge amount of copper in the liver. It also increases the risk of having liver cirrhosis.
- Medications: Just like alcohol, the consumption of drugs, and other substances for a long time, is a factor in the development of liver cirrhosis.
Symptoms Of Liver Cirrhosis
Considering that the liver is a major organ in the body, any damage to it affects almost all the systems of the body. Below are some of the signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen: This is also known as ascites, and it is because of the low amount of plasma protein in the body, especially albumin. The liver usually produces the plasma proteins, but in the case of liver cirrhosis, the liver’s functions are greatly reduced.
- Gynecomastia: This is a condition in which males have abnormally big sized breasts. This is due to the high level of estradiol in the blood.
- Other symptoms of liver cirrhosis include tiredness, palmar erythema, leg edema, vomiting etc.
How Is Liver Cirrhosis Currently Treated?
Liver cirrhosis is an irreversible disease. The scarred and damaged liver tissues are permanent. However, medicine has made good advancements to reduce the progression of the disease and its complications. Patients need to consume a special kind of diet too. In addition, medications are given to treat infections, corticosteroids are given to slow down inflammatory reactions and so on. In cases where the liver is already badly damaged, patients must undergo a liver transplant.
Stem Cell Therapy For Liver Cirrhosis
Studies as old as two decades has shown that liver cells can be grown from stem cells. This goes to show how advanced liver stem cell therapy is. Stem cells extracted from adipose tissues have proved efficient in the treatment of liver diseases. There are no complications such as rejection, like in liver transplantation. This is because the stem cells would be extracted from the patient. The stem cells are capable of differentiating and replacing damaged cells. In addition, they have the ability to repair injured tissues. Also, stem cells have immune modulatory functions, reducing the action of autoantibodies especially in autoimmune hepatitis.
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Grompe, M. (2014). Liver Stem Cells, Where Art Thou?. Cell Stem Cell, 15(3), pp.257-258.
Rajaram, R., Subramani, B., Abdullah, B. and Mahadeva, S. (2017). Mesenchymal stem cell therapy for advanced liver cirrhosis: A case report. JGH Open, 1(4), pp.153-155.
Zhang, Z. and Wang, F. (2013). Stem cell therapies for liver failure and cirrhosis. Journal of Hepatology, 59(1), pp.183-185.
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