The Department of Hepatology of the University of Edinburgh and the Castle Craig Hospital are set to launch a joint pilot study that would explore the use Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or HBOT to treat alcohol-related liver diseases. The two organizations are at present waiting for the approval of the Ethical Committee before formally starting their study.
The project would kick off with a Phase I trial which would determine if stem cells obtained from the bone marrow are absorbed by the bloodstream after HBOT, especially among patients with recent histories of excessive alcohol intake. The said phase would also follow any improvements in the liver function after HBOT.
For the study, blood samples would be drawn from participants one week before they undergo HBOT. The patient’s therapy would consist of 20 two-hour sessions where they would be exposed to hyperbaric oxygen ranging from 1.75 to 2 ATM. Blood samples would also be drawn from the participants after the tenth and twentieth section and a week after they complete the whole therapy.
Previous studies regarding HBOT have shown that it causes bone marrow stem cells to mobilize into and within the blood stream of healthy patients who were subjected to radiotherapy for cancer. There are also previous researches that have shown that surviving alcoholic hepatitis patients have larger amounts of stem cells in their bloods compared those who do not survive the disease and die. One problem, however, with the use of stem cells for treating alcoholic liver disease is the complicated process of collecting the required cells.
Researchers noted that the existing treatment techniques for liver cirrhosis and other diseases at present is organ transplant and even this is not available to all patients because of lack of donors. “There is also considerable controversy regarding providing “alcoholic” patients with liver transplant,” they added.
HBOT presents an alternative means to increase the number of stem cells in the bloodstream. Professor Peter Hayes, the pilot study’s chief investigator of the trial and a Professor of Hepatology at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary said, “Most ways of increasing stem cells are very complicated. The beauty of this approach is its simplicity. We have to do the study first before getting carried away.”
Peter McCann, the chairman of the Castle Craig Hospital remarked, “We are committed to helping patients, not only with their addictive disease, but also with their inevitable medical complications, and we hope that hyperbaric oxygenation will assist in this respect.”
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