Research Highlights

Terminator: Stem cell cure to destroy liver fibrosis

Published online 24 February 2016

Scientists use stem cells to replace damaged liver cells in blood-fluke-induced liver fibrosis.

Biplab Das

A combination of specific stem cells and blood-fluke-taming drug praziquantel can efficiently alleviate blood-fluke-induced liver fibrosis by regenerating active liver-like cells, new research shows1. 

This combination could potentially treat liver fibrosis caused by Schistosoma mansoni, a blood fluke that, according to a 2014 report by the World Health Organization, affects several million people in Egypt, Sudan and Yemen.  

After isolating mesenchymal stem cells from Wharton’s jelly of human umbilical cord, a team of Egyptian scientists transplanted the stem cells into the infected mice in combination with praziquantel.    

When introduced at the eighth week of infection the combined therapy reversed liver fibrosis more efficiently than when started at the 16th week. It reduced the expression of fibrosis-specific marker genes and enhanced the expression of marker genes that indicate regeneration of liver-like cells. 

The transplanted stem cells also boosted the activities of matrix metalloproteinases, enzymes that break down collagens that contribute to liver fibrosis, the researchers say. 

“By eradicating worms and reducing their eggs, praziquantel possibly provided the ideal liver microenvironment for the stem cells to grow into functioning liver-like cells,” says lead researcher Yasmeen M. Attia from the British University in Egypt.


Hammam, O. A. et al. Wharton’s jelly-derived mesenchymal stem cells combined with praziquantel as a potential therapy for Schistosoma mansoni-induced liver fibrosis. Sci. Rep. (2016).