Based on their ability to differentiate into multiple cell types including hepatocytes, the transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has been suggested as an effective therapy for chronic liver diseases. The aim of this study was to evaluate the safety, efficacy and therapeutic effects of MSCs in patients with chronic liver disease through a literature-based examination. We performed a systematic review (SR) and meta-analysis (MA) of the literature using the Ovid-MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Library databases (up to November 2014) to identify clinical studies in which patients with liver diseases were treated with MSC therapy. Of the 568 studies identified by the initial literature search, we analyzed 14 studies and 448 patients based on our selection criteria. None of the studies reported the occurrence of statistically significant adverse events, side effects or complications. The majority of the analyzed studies showed improvements in liver function, ascites and encephalopathy. In particular, an MA showed that MSC therapy improved the total bilirubin level, the serum albumin level and the Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) score after MSC treatment. Based on these results, MSC transplantation is considered to be safe for the treatment of chronic liver disease. However, although MSCs are potential therapeutic agents that may improve liver function, in order to obtain meaningful insights into their clinical efficacy, further robust clinical studies must be conducted to evaluate the clinical outcomes, such as histological improvement, increased survival and reduced liver-related complications, in patients with chronic liver disease.
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