Pretreating transplanted livers with the immune molecule interleukin-6 (IL-6) dramatically increased survival of rats receiving organs with fatty degeneration--a common condition in humans that typically reduces transplant viability. The results suggest a means of making it possible to use a higher percentage of available donor livers for transplantation in humans. With over three times as many Americans needing transplants as there are available donor livers, an effective approach to increasing the number of viable donor organs would help narrow the gap between demand and supply.
Steatosis, or fatty liver degeneration, is present in between 13 and 50 percent of donor livers. Fat may accumulate in the liver in association with obesity, diseases such as diabetes mellitus, and heavy drinking. Donor livers with steatosis are more likely to function poorly or fail after transplantation. With the increase in obesity in this country, the prevalence of steatosis in donor livers is expected to increase. A multi-center team of scientists found that adding the cytokine or cell-signaling molecule interleukin-6 (IL-6) to the solution in which a donor liver is stored before transplantation significantly increases post-transplant survival of rats receiving organs with fatty degeneration. Bin Gao, M.D., Ph.D., at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), led the scientific team which included investigators at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD (supported in part by a research grant from NIH’s National Institute on Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) and the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.
NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. said, "This study is an example of how our knowledge at a molecular level of how the immune system functions to protect against tissue damage can be exploited to develop strategies for dealing with important clinical problems. The work gives us a clue for future treatment and enhances our understanding of the mechanisms of liver damage, and the protection afforded by IL-6, after transplantation."
Ann Bradley | EurekAlert!
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