Indexed on: 16 Jan '14Published on: 16 Jan '14Published in: The Veterinary quarterly
Liver cell turnover is very slow, especially compared to intestines and stomach epithelium and hair cells. Since the liver is the main detoxifying organ in the body, it does not come as a surprise that the liver has an unmatched regenerative capacity. After 70% partial hepatectomy, the liver size returns to normal in about two weeks due to replication of differentiated hepatocytes and cholangiocytes. Despite this, liver diseases are regularly encountered in the veterinary clinic. Dogs primarily present with parenchymal pathologies such as hepatitis. The estimated frequency of canine hepatitis depends on the investigated population and accounts for 1%-2% of our university clinic referral population, and up to 12% in a general population. In chronic and severe acute liver disease, the regenerative and replicative capacity of the hepatocytes and/or cholangiocytes falls short and the liver is not restored. In this situation, proliferation of hepatic stem cells or hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs), on histology called the ductular reaction, comes into play to replace the damaged hepatocytes or cholangiocytes. For unknown reasons the ductular reaction is often too little and too late, or differentiation into fully differentiated hepatocytes or cholangiocytes is hampered. In this way, HPCs fail to fully regenerate the liver. The presence and potential of HPCs does, however, provide great prospectives for their use in regenerative strategies. This review highlights the regulation of, and the interaction between, HPCs and other liver cell types and discusses potential regenerative medicine-oriented strategies in canine hepatitis, making use of (liver) stem cells.