Background & aims: Orthotopic liver transplantation is currently the only curative therapy for chronic end-stage liver disease and acute liver failure. However, a scarcity of cadaveric donors has led to a critical shortage of organs available for transplant. This is further complicated by the prevalence of steatosis in about 13%-50% of donor livers, which is associated with a high risk of dysfunction and primary nonfunction.
Methods: Steatotic Zucker rat livers and livers from alcohol-fed rats were transplanted into lean control rats. Liver injury, activation of survival signals, and hepatic microcirculation were compared in nontreated and interleukin-6 (IL-6)-treated steatotic isografts.
Results: IL-6 pretreatment of steatotic Zucker rat liver isografts dramatically reduces mortality and liver injury following transplantation. Reperfusion after transplantation induces significant sinusoidal endothelial cell necrapoptosis in steatotic Zucker rat liver isografts, which is prevented by in vitro IL-6 pretreatment. IL-6 treatment activates cell survival signal transducer and activator of transcription factor 3 (STAT3) in hepatocytes and sinusoidal endothelial cells. Laser Doppler imaging and microsphere analyses demonstrate that IL-6 treatment markedly improves hepatic microcirculation, which is impaired in steatotic Zucker rat liver transplants. Finally, in vitro IL-6 treatment of donor livers also markedly reduces mortality associated with fatty liver transplants from alcohol-fed rats.
Conclusions: IL-6 induces hepatoprotection of steatotic liver isografts via preventing sinusoidal endothelial cell necrapoptosis and consequent amelioration of hepatic microcirculation, and protecting against hepatocyte death. IL-6 pretreatment of steatotic livers may render such allografts useable for clinical transplantation.