BEIJING, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Chinese researchers have developed a humanized mouse model to study liver cirrhosis development induced by hepatitis B virus infection.
Developing an ideal animal model of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is difficult because the virus has an extremely narrow host range and almost exclusively infects humans.
Previous studies show that mesenchymal stem cells from human bone marrow (hBMSCs) have the potential to differentiate into hepatocyte-like cells in vitro and continue to maintain essential hepatocyte functions in vivo after being transplanted into host mouse livers. Hepatocytes make up 70 to 85 percent of liver mass.
Researchers from China's Xiamen University and Zhejiang University transplanted hBMSCs into mice. According to the research paper published online on the British Journal of Gut, the mice show robust differentiation and proliferation of functional human hepatocytes and multiple immune cells.
After HBV infection, the humanized mice developed specific immune and inflammatory responses and showed progression to chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis.
The researchers said the new humanized mouse model recapitulates the liver cirrhosis induced by human HBV infection, providing opportunities for better understanding the immune pathophysiology of HBV and testing promising antiviral therapies in vivo.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 257 million people are living with HBV infection. It can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.