Insights into disease-specific mechanisms for liver repopulation are needed for cell therapy. To understand the efficacy of pro-oxidant hepatic perturbations in Wilson disease, we studied Long-Evans Cinnamon (LEC) rats with copper toxicosis under several conditions. Hepatocytes from healthy Long-Evans Agouti (LEA) rats were transplanted intrasplenically into the liver. A cure was defined as lowering of copper to below 250 μg/g liver, presence of ATPase, Cu++ transporting, beta polypeptide (atp7b) messenger RNA (mRNA) in the liver and improvement in liver histology. Treatment of animals with the hydrophobic bile salt, cholic acid, or liver radiation before cell transplantation produced cure rates of 14% and 33%, respectively; whereas liver radiation plus partial hepatectomy followed by cell transplantation proved more effective, with cure in 55%, P<0.01; and liver radiation plus cholic acid followed by cell transplantation was most effective, with cure in 75%, P < 0.001. As a group, cell therapy cures in rats preconditioned with liver radiation plus cholic acid resulted in less hepatic copper, indicating greater extent of liver repopulation. We observed increased hepatic catalase and superoxide dismutase activities in LEC rats, suggesting chronic oxidative stress. After liver radiation or cholic acid, hepatic lipid peroxidation levels increased, indicating further oxidative injury, although we did not observe overt additional cytotoxicity. This contrasted with healthy animals in which liver radiation and cholic acid produced hepatic steatosis and loss of injured hepatocytes. We concluded that pro-oxidant perturbations were uniquely effective for cell therapy in Wilson disease because of the nature of preexisting hepatic damage.
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