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Presently, orthotopic liver transplant is the major therapeutic option for patients affected by primary liver diseases. This procedure is characterized by major invasive surgery, scarcity of donor organs, high costs, and lifelong immunosuppressive treatment. Transplant of hepatic precursor
cells represents an attractive alternative. These cells could be used either for allogeneic transplantation or for autologous transplant after ex vivo genetic modification. We used stromal cells isolated from adipose tissue (AT-SCs) as platforms for autologous cell-mediated gene therapy. AT-SCs
were transduced with lentiviral vectors expressing firefly luciferase, allowing for transplanted cell tracking by bioluminescent imaging (BLI). As a complementary approach, we followed circulating human α1-antitrypsin (hAAT) levels after infusion of AT-SCs overexpressing hAAT. Cells
were transplanted into syngeneic mice after CCl4-induced hepatic injury. Luciferase bioluminescence signals and serum hAAT levels were measured at different time points after transplantation and demonstrate persistence of transplanted cells for up to 2 months after administration.
These data, along with immunohistochemical analysis, suggest engraftment and repopulation of injured livers by transplanted AT-SCs. Moreover, by transcriptional targeting using cellular tissue-specific regulatory sequences, we confirmed that AT-SCs differentiate towards a hepatogenic-like
phenotype in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, in transplanted cells reisolated from recipient animals' livers, we detected activation of the α-fetoprotein (AFP) promoter. This promoter is normally transcriptionally silenced in adult tissues but can be reactivated during liver regeneration,
suggesting commitment towards hepatogenic-like differentiation of engrafted cells in vivo. Our data support AT-SC-mediated gene therapy as an innovative therapeutic option for disorders of liver metabolism.
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.