Research Group

  • Dr. Ezio Laconi, Principal Investigator
  • Dr. Mario Strazzabosco, Co-Investigator
  • Dr. Umberto Baccarani, Research Associate
  • Dr. Bruno Gridelli, Research Associate
  • Prof. Giuseppe Remuzzi, Research Associate
  • Prof. Stephen Strom, Research Associate


  • University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy


  • Towards a Human Hepatocyte-Based Bio-Artificial Liver

Organ transplantation is the only effective treatment for advanced liver disease. However, serious problems, including organ availability and high cost, severely limit its widespread clinical application. As a result, many candidate patients never reach access to this treatment, particularly in case of fulminant hepatic failure, when the time is crucial. The possibility of using an external liver support would be lifesaving for many such patients, as confirmed by results of a recent clinical trial. A bio-artificial liver (BAL) can serve at least two main purposes: (i) it can support a patient’s life until a donor liver is available, i.e. it can "bridge" to organ transplantation; and (ii) it can promote the recovery of the patient’s own liver, thereby avoiding transplantation. Thus, the assembly of a clinically effective BAL system would be highly desirable and is being pursued by several groups of investigators. Ideally, any artificial surrogate of the human liver should include the cells that are normally present in the liver, i.e. normal human hepatocytes. However, current approaches are mostly based on other, less efficient cell types, because it has been difficult so far to obtain sufficiently large numbers of human cells. In this context, we have developed an experimental model that serves as a general strategy for the rapid expansion of transplanted cells in the liver. Our aim is to exploit such a strategy in order to expand human hepatocytes injected into the liver of a host animal. Such a liver, repopulated with human cells, could greatly improve the efficiency of currently available BAL systems. The potential clinical impact would be twofold: (i) more patients with end-stage liver disease would be "bridged" to organ transplant; (ii) more patients with acute liver failure would be helped to recover without transplantation.