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Stem cell liver treatment at city hospital

A LOCAL hospital will begin treating patients with terminal cirrhosis of the liver by using their bone marrow stem cells, experts said yesterday.

Stem cells can transform themselves into different specialized cell types that can aid a damaged liver and improve the organ's function.

Renji Hospital is the first local hospital to receive permission to perform the treatment. It got the go-ahead at the end of last year but treatment on patients hasn't started yet, experts said yesterday.

"Stem cell therapy can't cure a patient's liver, but it can improve liver function and quality of life, and prolong survival while the patient waits for a transplant," said Dr Zheng Qing from Renji Hospital's digestive disease department.

On China's mainland, the incidence of viral hepatitis is 113.2 per 100,000 people. There are 120 million hepatitis B carriers and many with other types of chronic liver diseases.

Experts said about 16 percent of chronic hepatitis will develop into cirrhosis of the liver within five years. About 30 percent of hepatitis sufferers will die eventually due to liver failure.

Current treatment for terminal cirrhosis is medication and a liver transplant. However, many patients die before having a liver transplant because of a shortage of donor organs.

"Stem cell transplant is a very useful way to control liver deterioration and ease symptoms. Using a patient's own cells means there is no risk of rejection," Zheng said. "It is a mature process and has produced good results here and abroad."

Clinical research in China and in other countries and regions on bone marrow stem cell transplants has shown 70 to 80 percent of patients with terminal cirrhosis of the liver enjoyed improved liver function after treatment.


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