Surgical Research Unit

Liver regeneration

Liver regeneration occurs after acute liver failure due to toxic, viral or surgical resection and is a dramatic clinical situation with high mortality. A better understanding of the complex intercellular interactions at the onset and during liver regeneration may lead to new treatments for patients with severe and life-threatening liver diseases. Specifically, we are interested in the role of the liver sinusoidal endothelial cells in the liver regeneration process: Several questions are addressed by using in vitro and in vivo models. What is the role of liver sinusoidal endothelial cells during onset of liver regeneration? To which extend interactions between liver endothelial cells and platelets are relevant for liver regeneration? Our research group runs basic research and aims to implement the research for new clinical treatments.

Cell therapy

Xenotransplantation, i.e. the use of animal sources for transplantation into humans could resolve the severe shortage of human organ donors. We have a strong interest in finding new strategies to support liver failure and to treat type I diabetes using cell encapsulation. The morphology of pig and human islets as well their developmental program share important features, not observed in mice. Studies using pig islets offers the possibilities of meaningful studies related to human type 1 diabetes. Currently, in collaboration with the EPFL (Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology) we are searching for new biocompatible and stable polymers, eliciting less pericapsular fibrosis, for pig islet cell encapsulation and transplantation. In collaboration with the Agroscope at Posieux, we are evaluating the function and survival of juvenile pig islet cell clusters after encapsulation and transplantation in immune-competent and immune-suppressed mice.

Clinical research

Our clinical research is focusing on pancreatic adenocarcinoma, one of the most aggressive cancers. To improve the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer, progress is urgently needed at all steps, detection, pre-operative management and treatment. The team of Prof Bernhard Egger and Prof Léo Bühler at the Fribourg Cantonal Hospital (HFR) in collaboration with oncologists and radiologists launched several clinical protocols with the aim: 1) to screen patients with recent diabetes by biological and radiological signs for pancreatic cancer. 2) to improve pre-operative management by using 3D printing of the tumor to allow better localization and predict surgical resectability of tumors in patients with established diagnosis. 3) to evaluate the efficiency of an inhibitor of  the IL6 pathway for patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma.