First patient receives cell therapy that turns lymph node into tiny liver

First patient receives

First patient receives cell therapy that turns lymph node into tiny liver

A Pittsburgh-based biotech company has started a one-of-a-kind trial in a patient with a failing liver. Their goal is to grow a functional second liver within the patient’s body–something never achieved before. 

If effective, it might be a life-saving therapy for those who require liver transplants but have to wait months for a compatible donor organ. 

LyGenesis is currently carrying out a trial in only one patient with end-stage liver disease (ESLD) to test the efficacy of their allogenic regenerative cell therapy. 

As per Nature, the experimental procedure was conducted in Houston on March 25. The report also states that the patient is “recovering well” after receiving the treatment. However, the formation of the new liver-like organ in the lymph node may take several months.

Moreover, the individual will be kept on immunosuppressive drugs to prevent any initial rejection of the donor cells.

The physicians will continue to monitor the patient’s health closely. 

Donor cells were injected into the individual’s lymph nodes. These cells may multiply, and turn a lymph node structure into a “functional ectopic liver” or another tiny liver in the patient’s body. 

“In a medical first, we have now dosed our first patient in a clinical trial using their own lymph nodes as living bioreactors to regenerate an ectopic organ,” said Dr. Michael Hufford, Co-Founder and CEO of LyGenesis. 

“This therapy will potentially be a remarkable regenerative medicine milestone by helping patients with ESLD grow new functional ectopic livers in their own body,” added Hufford. 

The procedure for growing ‘mini liver’

This procedure makes use of healthy liver cells known as hepatocytes. These cells make up about 80 percent of the liver’s mass and perform various cellular functions, including metabolic ones. 

In this trial, scientists prepared donated hepatocyte cells for transplantation by suspending them in a solution. These cells were then transplanted into the patient’s upper abdominal lymph nodes, which are tiny bean-shaped structures. These structures are an essential immune system component and filter waste from the body.  

Apart from the abdomen, lymph nodes are also found in the neck and chest. 

The team opted for a minimally invasive approach to inject the cells into the patient’s lymph node via a catheter in the neck.

“The lymph nodes then act as in vivo bioreactors, helping the hepatocytes to engraft, proliferate, and generate functional ectopic liver tissue,” the press release noted. 

In simplest terms, these cells have the ability to multiply over the next several months. In a person with a failing liver, lymph nodes might operate as a second liver-like organ. 

Thousands die while waiting for organ

There is an increasing shortage of organs, thus scientists are looking for alternative techniques such as 3D bioprinting. 

Every year, over a thousand people in the United States die while waiting for a liver transplant. Furthermore, many people are ineligible for the transplant because they are too sick to endure the treatment.

LyGenesis has started this Phase 2a clinical trial to see whether their technique could be a potential therapy for these individuals. 

The company mentions that this regenerative cell treatment has shown promise in mice, dogs, and pigs. After this initial trial, the team plans to test this treatment on 12 patients with end-stage liver disease.

“If our study is successful and we obtain FDA approval, our allogenic cell therapy could enable one donated liver to treat many dozens of ESLD patients, which could help to tilt the current organ supply-demand imbalance in favor of patient,” added Hufford in the press release. 

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