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A biologist from the University of Navarra has discovered a treatment for ischemic damage in liver transplants

María Iñiguez has confirmed that cardiotrophin-1 prevents the appearance of hepatic deterioration due to ischemia-reperfusion

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FOTO: Manuel Castells
14/02/06 13:09 Mª Pilar Huarte

María Iñiguez, a researcher in the area of Genetic Therapy and Hepatology at the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) of the University of Navarra (CIMA), has discovered the role of cardiotrophin-1, a protein naturally produced by the body, in the prevention of liver damage.

This advance will permit, according to the biologist, "the elimination of the negative effects which this organ suffers upon performing a resection [total or partial extraction], or when a transplant is performed; these operations are habitual in the treatment of primary or metastatic tumors." In these situations, the liver suffers the consequences of damage caused by ischemia-reperfusion, provoked by the transitory interruption of blood circulation in order to avoid an excessive loss of blood during the operation.

"When this happens, it can produce a severe hepatic insufficiency during the postoperative stage, and reduce the viability of the organ," she explained. In addition, this effect is involved in the fact that a relatively high percentage of organs available for transplant cannot be used, which reduces possibilities for donation.

Endogenic Protectors

In her doctoral dissertation, defended at the University of Navarra and directed by Dr. Prieto, María Iñiguez confirmed that the administration of recombinant cardiotrophin-1 stimulates the endogenic protective mechanisms that prevent the death of the liver cells. In this way, a regenerative response is promoted that protects experimental animals. "In the absence of this protein, genetically modified rats suffer greater liver damage due to ischemia-reperfusion."

Therefore, the administration of this cytokyne as palliative therapy permits hepatic resections that are more extensive, but with less risk, "so that patients with this cancer who currently do not meet the requirements established, may in the future benefit from surgical treatment," Dr. Iñiguez explained. In addition, its use could increase tolerance to ischemic lesions in so-called marginal organs -those which are discarded due to age, prior damage, etc.- and could increase the number of organs available for transplant. Indeed, as the researcher emphasized, "this therapy may also be effective in living donors."