Our Liver Program
is focused on the development of our hLEC™ human liver engrafting cells as a treatment for a broad range of liver diseases.
The Challenge of Liver Disease
Liver disease is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US1, and an enormous public healthcare burden. Today, whole organ transplantation is the only definitive treatment for restoring liver function in patients with severe liver disease.
An estimated 25 million people in the US2, and millions more worldwide, are afflicted with liver-related disease. Each year 45,000 Americans die from liver-associated disorders3. In many of these diseases, such as inborn errors of metabolism, acute liver failure and cirrhosis, the liver is either missing an essential function or loses function as liver cells are damaged or destroyed by the disease process.
Although a viable treatment modality, only a few thousand liver transplants can be accomplished each year due to the limited supply of suitable organs and the very invasive nature of the procedure. For this reason, organ transplants are generally reserved for patients in the very late stages of the disease who are sick enough to warrant such drastic intervention, yet healthy enough to survive the transplant operation. The medical team performing the transplant must be highly skilled and available for an around-the-clock surgical procedure, and then costly hospitalization follows that can last for months and includes critical care. The burden of an organ transplant on the patient, family, physicians, healthcare workers and the system are staggering – physically, emotionally and financially.
The Promise of Cell Therapy
Cell-based therapy using liver stem or progenitor cells has the potential to offer a better alternative for treating a broad range of liver diseases. A cell-based therapeutic could provide or support liver function in patients with liver disease and would have numerous advantages over whole organ transplantation. Such a product could potentially:
- Expand the number of patients who could be treated,
- Enable treatment in earlier stages of disease, and
- Be less invasive and better tolerated.
- American Liver Foundation
- American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases
- Kim WR, et al., Burden of Liver Disease in the United States: Summary of Workshop. Hepatology July 2002
- Eileen K. McCluskey, A ‘Surgeon of the Soul’, The Harvard University Gazette, March 25, 1999