Dr. Bahri Bilir, assistant professor of hepatology at the University's medical school in Denver, is working on a process to inject healthy liver cells from human donors into the spleens of patients suffering from late stage liver disease.
In clinical trials at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
, Dr. Bilir's hepatocyte technique has shown promise for patients suffering from acute and chronic liver failure.
The implications of Dr. Bilir's work are astounding.
According to Dr. Bilir
, hepatocyte transplants may help slow the rapid decline of patients with chronic liver disease by providing the "missing ‘critical mass' of liver to cover metabolic needs and prevent multi-system organ failure and brain edema while allowing time for the native liver to regenerate."
The new technique may, says Dr. Bilir
, provide time for recovery in patients who have enough liver cells left to regenerate function on their own, or act as a bridge to liver transplantation for patients awaiting donor organs.
"We believe that patients with chronic liver disease can definitely benefit by augmentation of their liver function," Dr. Bilir
has said."This situation could be exceptionally helpful in trying to cut down on the hospitalization of patients and hopefully increase the survival of patients who are waiting on the liver transplant list."
The concept of hepatocyte transplantation has been around for over 20 years and has had more than 200 scientific publications devoted to it.Work with animals had shown that liver cells could be transplanted into many body sites including the spleen, liver, fat tissue and kidneys.Yet technical challenges had made human clinical trials impractical until recently.The transplantation method is rather simple, says Dr. Bilir
.The principle hurdle has been the availability of liver cells.
Since a large number of liver cells are needed for each patient treated with the University of Colorado technique, a specialized tissue bank that had the expertise to isolate and cryopreserve the cells was necessary.Dr. Bilir
turned to IIAM
as the only tissue bank with that capability of providing support and appropriate procedures to find donations for the program.
Bilir Work Gaining RecognitionDr. Bahri Bilir
is starting to get a lot of attention for his
revolutionary technique of transplanting liver cells from human donors into the spleens of patients suffering from liver failure.
In June, 1996, the Denver Post
ran a story on Dr. Bilir's
program.The story focused on the fate of a patient who had been waiting for a liver transplant for 13 months.The 44-year-old is typical of the thousands of transplant candidates across the country who are waiting for too few livers.According to the newspaper, this patient might become a candidate for the University of Colorado
cell transplant program.CBS Morning News
also featured Dr. Bilir
work in April, 1997.In a health segment on the program, Dr. Bilir
was interviewed about his
work and its potential to save thousands of lives.The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) gave Dr. Bilir its 1997 Research Workshop Young Investigator Award at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago in November, 1997.
Donated human cells processed by the IIAM
Human Cell Biology will also be used develop new medical procedures like the one being pioneered by Dr. Bahri Bilir
at the University of Colorado
where liver cells from IIAM are being transplanted into the spleens of patients with late stage liver disease.