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Wound Healing in the Biliary Tree of Liver Allografts

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An increasing need for liver transplantation requires evaluation and triage of organs harvested from “extended criteria” donors. Although there is currently no widely accepted definition, most would agree that “extended criteria” includes organs donated by individuals that are old (>65 years), obese, infected with HBV or HCV, non-heart beating (NHBD), or had an unstable blood pressure before harvesting or the organ experienced a long cold ischemic time. These organs carry a statistical risk of dysfunction early after transplantation, but in the majority of recipients, hepatic parenchymal function recovers. Later, however, a small but significant percentage of extended criteria donors develop biliary strictures within several months after transplantation. The strictures occur primarily because of preservation injury that leads to “ischemic cholangitis” or deep wounding of the bile duct wall. Subsequent partial wound healing and wound contraction, but failed restitution of the biliary epithelial cell (BEC) lining, result in biliary tract strictures that cause progressive biliary fibrosis, increased morbidity, and decreased organ half-life. Better understanding of the pathophysiologic mechanisms that lead to biliary strictures in extended criteria donors provides an ideal proving ground for regenerative medicine; it also can provide insights into other diseases, such as extrahepatic biliary atresia and primary sclerosing cholangitis, that likely share certain pathogenic mechanisms. Possible points of therapeutic intervention include limiting cold and warm ischemic times, donor and/or donor organ treatment, ex vivo, to minimize the ischemic/preservation injury, maximize blood flow after transplantation, promote BEC wound healing, and limit myofibroblasts activation and proliferation in the bile duct wall. The pathobiology of biliary wound healing and therapeutic potential of interleukin-6 (IL-6) are highlighted.

Keywords: Biliary strictures; Liver transplantation; Wound healing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 2: Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

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