Serotonin Can Stimulate Liver Cell Regeneration In Chronic Liver Disease
A team of researchers from Newcastle University discovered that serotonin receptors can be used by drugs to increase the natural healing proprieties of the liver. The study was published in Nature Medicine magazine.
Generally, when an organ is injured, the human body tries to repair that particular organ by forming scar tissue. In all liver diseases, evaluation of tissue damage is based on the balance between the degree of scar tissue formation and the degree of normal liver cell regeneration. If the degree of scar tissue formation is higher than the degree of liver cell regeneration, then that liver disease progresses to cirrhosis, a condition in which the liver is unable to produce vital hormones and clotting factor or is unable to clean the blood. Liver cirrhosis is also consider a risk factor for hepatic cancer.
This study which was published, Nature Medicine describes how researchers were able to stimulate healthy tissue regeneration of the liver and block scar tissue formation by manipulating the actions of serotonin in mice with liver diseases.
In a liver injury, produced by a viral agent like hepatitis B, alcohol, by autoimmune or metabolic diseases, a specialized type of blood cells known as platelets are stimulated to repair the damaged tissue. When platelets are stimulated, they start to secrete serotonin. The researchers found that serotonin will stimulate the scar-forming cells, known as hepatic stellate cells to produce more scar tissue therefore stopping the healthy liver regeneration process. The scientists also discover that serotonin stimulates the hepatic stellate cells to produce scar tissue and inhibit normal regeneration of liver cells by acting on a specific a receptor called 5-HT2B. By modifying the action of this receptor, the scientists were able to determine the liver to increase the degree of liver cells regeneration and to decrease the degree of scar tissue formation.
Professor Derek Mann, research team leader stated: These are promising results in mouse models of liver disease and suggest that chemicals targeting 5-HT2B , which are currently in clinical trials for mood disorders and pulmonary hypertension might also have an application in the treatment of chronic liver disease.
Scientists now think that this particular regeneration mechanism which was initially found studying the liver may also play a role in regenerating other organs. This discovery may represent an astonishing opportunity to study the regeneration process of other organs in the near future leading to possible new treatments not only for patients suffering from chronic liver diseases.