Stem cell factor: Secret to liver’s fountain of youth

Following surgical liver resection, a technique known as partial hepatectomy, which is often employed in the removal of benign or malignant tumors, a large reservoir of stem cell factor (SCF) in the liver drives increased hepatocyte proliferation in order to restore liver mass to normal. Lisa Colletti and colleagues from the University of Michigan report their findings in the November 3 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Following most cases of partial hepatectomy the remnant liver regenerates until normal hepatic mass is reestablished. However the specific factors involved in this complex regulatory phenomenon remain to be completely defined.

Colletti and colleagues demonstrate that hepatic SCF levels change dramatically following partial hepatectomy in mice, and that SCF blockade, either by administration of anti-SCF antibodies or by using genetically altered, SCF-deficient mice, inhibits hepatocyte proliferation. Furthermore, SCF administration in SCF-deficient mice was shown to restore hepatocyte proliferation to normal and this effect occurs via an IL-6–mediated pathway.

Colletti and colleagues suggest that while hepatic homeostasis and regeneration likely involves multiple complex mechanisms and pathways, their current report indicates that SCF plays a significant role in maintaining and reestablishing the health of the liver.

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