Background: Hepatocyte transplantation is a promising treatment for several liver diseases and can also be used as a "bridge" to liver transplantation in cases of liver failure. Although the first animal experiments with this technique began in 1967, it was first applied in humans only in 1992. Unfortunately, unequivocal evidence of transplanted human hepatocyte function has been obtained in only one patient with Crigler-Najjar syndrome type I and, even then, the amount of bilirubin-UDP-glucuronosyltransferase enzyme activity derived from the transplanted cells was not sufficient to eliminate the patient's eventual need for organ transplantation. Methods: A literature review was carried out using MEDLINE and library searches. Results: This review considers the following: (1) alternatives or bridges to orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT); (2) solutions to the shortage of organs - the shortage of organ donors has impeded the development of human hepatocyte transplantation, and immortalized hepatocytes in particular could provide an unlimited supply of transplantable cells in a nearly future; (3) future directions. We review these efforts along with hepatocyte transplantation over the last 13 years.
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