Interaction between the immune system and liver progenitor cells

Cornelia Viebahn

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Liver progenitor cells (LPCs) play a major role in the regeneration process following chronic liver damage. LPCs can differentiate into hepatocytes and cholangiocytes and thus are capable of replenishing the damaged liver. Due to their plasticity and robust nature in culture systems, they are promising candidates for use in cell therapy. However, to be able to use LPCs as tissue regenerating stem cell-like cells in the clinic, we need to fully understand how they are controlled. Although a strong association between LPCs and inflammation has been shown in many chronic liver diseases, the role of the immune system in LPC-mediated hepatic regeneration is poorly understood. We hypothesise that specific immune cells and mediators are needed to induce the LPC compartment, and that these are common to the LPC response in different injury settings. Therefore, the present study focused on the characterisation of the inflammatory environment in the LPC response, which generates this niche. The aims of this study were (i) to identify the immune cells that are important for the LPC response, (ii) to define the cytokine profile and (iii) to determine the role of the cytokine producing cells during liver regeneration. To study hepatic inflammation following liver injury, a diet-induced model of liver injury (choline-deficient, ethionine-supplemented diet, CDE diet) was compared to two transgenic mouse models of immune-mediated hepatitis (Met-Kb, 178.3). Although all three models are characterised by hepatitis, histological analysis revealed that LPCs were only detectable in the CDE and Met-Kb livers. In the 178.3 model, livers regenerated from proliferating hepatocytes. An LPC response could not be induced in these mice even when liver damage was made more severe. In the other two models, LPC numbers increased over time showing the highest numbers one week after the peak of liver injury. LPCs were often found in close proximity to inflammatory cells, in particular macrophages.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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