Acute liver failure (ALF), a life-threatening disease characterized by the sudden loss of hepatic function, can occur after an accidental or intentional acetaminophen overdose.
With the use of an ALF mouse model, we examined both the preventive and therapeutic potential of intravenously administered human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (hUCMSCs). Primary hUCMSCs were purified from freshly collected full-term umbilical cords and intravenously transplanted into BALB/c mice either before and after ALF induced by acetaminophen intoxication. We found that hUCMSCs significantly improved survival rates and relative liver weight of mice in both pre-ALF and post-ALF animals. Correspondingly, serum levels of markers that reflect hepatic injury (ie, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase and total bilirubin) were significantly attenuated in the group receiving hUCMSC therapy.
Mechanistically, we found that the protective potential of intravenously administered hUCMSCs was mediated by paracrine pathways that involved antioxidants (glutathione, superoxide dismutase), the reduction of inflammatory agents (tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-6) and elevated serum levels of hepatocyte growth factor.
Through these paracrine effects, intravenously administered hUCMSCs reduced hepatic necrosis/apoptosis and enhanced liver regeneration. Thus, our data demonstrate that intravenously administered hUCMSCs may be useful in the prevention or treatment of acetaminophen-induced ALF.