Fibrosis is a common feature in most pathogenetic processes in the liver, and usually results from a chronic insult that depletes the regenerative capacity of hepatocytes and activates multiple inflammatory pathways, recruiting resident and circulating immune cells, endothelial cells, non-parenchymal hepatic stellate cells, and fibroblasts, which become activated and lead to excessive extracellular matrix accumulation. The ongoing development of liver fibrosis results in a clinically silent and progressive loss of hepatocyte function, demanding the constant need for liver transplantation in clinical practice, and motivating the search for other treatments as the chances of obtaining compatible viable livers become scarcer. Although initially cell therapy has emerged as a plausible alternative to organ transplantation, many factors still challenge the establishment of this technique as a main or even additional therapeutic tool. Herein, the authors discuss the most recent advances and point out the corners and some controversies over several protocols and models that have shown promising results as potential candidates for cell therapy for liver fibrosis, presenting the respective mechanisms proposed for liver regeneration in each case.
Keywords: cell therapy; hepatocytes; in vitro; liver fibrosis; progenitor cells; secretome; stem cells.