Hepatitis B can be quite alarming. Especially if it’s chronic because it causes permanent damage to the liver. Often times, a liver transplant is needed if it gets bad enough. Sometimes, hepatitis B will clear up on its own or with some medical treatment. However, it’s not always caught in time due to having early symptoms similar to so many other issues. Sometimes the symptoms aren’t even noticed or thought to be too out of the ordinary. Since hepatitis B can be so damaging, most people live with the effects of the virus for the rest of their life. Some of the effects are worse than others and don’t impede the health of some patients while other patients aren’t as lucky. However, stem cells are known for their powerful ways of repairing tissue and replacing damaged cells, especially in organs. This means they have been a promising option for curing or controlling the hepatitis B virus, or at least the damage it causes.
It’s important to point out that the virus itself is curable, it’s the cirrhosis of the liver it causes that there is no current cure for. Once the damage to the liver has been caused, it can’t be fixed. That is until stem cells came into the picture. Current studies show that liver issues will become 12th on the list for causing the most deaths, by the year 2020. However, researchers have just recently been able to cure cirrhosis and stop liver the progression of liver failure with a special stem cell treatment. The cure they discovered is a mixture of mesenchymal stem cells and induced bone marrow-derived macrophages. It not only reduced fibrosis, but it also promoted regeneration of the damaged liver.
Mesenchymal stem cells are cells that can become any type of cell they need to be. Various areas of the body have certain types of cells that cater to the specific needs of that area. Mesenchymal cells are basically a “wild card” and when introduced into any given area of the body, they can make or become any type of cell they need to in order to repair or function in that specific area.
The macrophages mentioned are a specific cell found in bone marrow, but they’ve been enhanced in a dish in a lab. They are grown for specific uses such as liver regeneration. The specific combination of these two little miracles is what did the trick in finding a cure for hepatitis B.
Although there is still a lot of research to go on this newfound cure, hopes are high. This is one of the first breakthroughs scientists have had on controlling the damage from the virus and counteracting its effects. So, in short, can stem cells cure hepatitis B? As of right now, it sure looks like they’re the answer.