Systematic review: the effects of autologous stem cell therapy for patients with liver disease

As morbidity and mortality from liver disease continues to rise, new strategies are necessary. Liver transplantation is not only an expensive resource committing the patient to lifelong immunosuppression but also suitable donor organs are in short supply. Against this background, autologous stem cell therapy has emerged as a potential treatment option.

To evaluate if it is possible to make a judgement on the safety, feasibility and effect of autologous stem cell therapy for patients with liver disease.

MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched up until July 2013 to identify studies where autologous stem cell therapy was administered to patients with liver disease.

Of 1668 studies identified, 33 were eligible for inclusion evaluating a median sample size of 10 patients for a median follow-up of 6 months. Although there was marked heterogeneity between studies with regards to type, dose and route of delivery of stem cell, the treatment was shown to be safe and feasible largely when a peripheral route of administration was used. Of the studies which also looked at biochemical outcome, statistically significant improvement in liver function tests was seen in 16 studies post-treatment.

Although autologous stem cell therapy is a much needed possibility in the treatment of liver disease, further robust clinical trials and collaborative protocols are required.