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Stem Cell Therapy For Autoimmune Hepatitis: How It Works

Although considered less common, autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) should not be ignored. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can prevent liver failure.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : July 6, 2022 2:11 PM IST

We say that a strong immune system is very important to keep diseases at bay. But, what about situations where the immune system itself turns against us? Autoimmune diseases are an example of what happens when the immune system starts considering the body's own cells as foreign and destroys them. The result repeated inflammation and tissue damage induced by our own body.

We do not clearly know what causes most autoimmune diseases, though genetic changes over time and environmental as well as lifestyle factors have been known to trigger these diseases. Today, I am going to tell you about autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), which although considered less common, should not be ignored as prompt diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to prevent liver failure and ultimately transplantation.

What is Autoimmune Hepatitis?

AIH is associated with inflammation (swelling) in the liver tissue and a disturbed immune system, leading to scarring (cirrhosis) and function failure of the organ. The symptoms of the condition include fatigue, itching, yellowing of the skin and white portion of the eyes (jaundice), dark coloured urine, etc. Some patients also experience joint pain, menstrual issues, weight loss, etc. However, the diagnosis of AIH is not based on the above symptoms alone. Blood investigations and liver biopsy are also indicated. There is no cure per se for the disease; however, there are steroids and other medicines which suppress the immune system. Unfortunately, these treatments need to be continued life-long.

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New treatment of Autoimmune Hepatitis

It is possible today to 'educate/prime' specific cells of the body to regulate a dysfunctional immune system. Mesenchymal stem cells can be primed with a substance called interferon-gamma, which can then be transplanted into the patient's body to achieve normal functioning of the immune system as well as tissue regeneration.

Likewise, there are studies on natural killer cell therapy, wherein the cells through their anti-viral, liver protective, and regenerative abilities prevent infection, inflammation and tissue damage. Growth factors, which may be considered as nutritional sources for cells are also provided simultaneously, all of which form a holistic, safe and effective regenerative protocol for AIH.

It is said that the liver can regenerate itself; however, this does not mean that the whole organ grows back when damaged. This misconception leads to improper action being taken by patients when diagnosed any changes in liver function on blood tests.

Any autoimmune disease should be tackled right at the start; else it severely affects the quality of life. Our aim through a regenerative medicine and immunotherapy approach is to set right the core pathology and train the immune system that the cells are not foreign and thus should not be destroyed. Along with this, we aim to enhance the natural regenerative potential of the liver to prevent further damage.

The article is contributed by Dr. Pradeep Mahajan (Regenerative Medicine Researcher, StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Navi Mumbai).

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