Background: Liver failure is a life-threatening liver disease encompassing severe acute
deterioration of liver function. Emergency liver transplantation is the only curative treatment for liver
failure, but is restricted by the severe shortage of organ donors. Stem cell, including embroyonic stem
cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells and hepatic
progenitor cells, have capacity to proliferate and differentiate and could be used in a variety of liver
diseases including hereditary liver diseases, cirrhosis and liver failure.
Objective: We summarized the basic experimental and clinical advances of stem cell transplantation in
liver failure treatment, and also discussed the advantages and disadvantage of different stem cells subtype
in this field, aiming to provide a perspective on the stem cell-based therapy for liver failure.
Results: Stem cells, especially mesenchymal stem cells (mainly low immunogenicity and paracrine
characteristics) and induced pluripotent stem cells (generation of desired cell type from somatic cell),
are feasible candidates for cell therapy in the treatment of liver failure, but there are some drawbacks
remaining to be resolved, such as low engraftment, cryotpreservation methods and tumorigenesis.
Conclusion: Stem cell transplantation is a promising but challenging strategy and paves a new way for
curing liver failure. But more efforts need to be made to overcome problems before this new strategy
could be safely and effectively applied to humans.