Copyright ©2009 The WJG Press and Baishideng. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Jul 7, 2009; 15(25): 3086-3098
Published online Jul 7, 2009. doi: 10.3748/wjg.15.3086
An overview of animal models for investigating the pathogenesis and therapeutic strategies in acute hepatic failure
María Jesús Tuñón, Marcelino Alvarez, Jesús M Culebras, Javier González-Gallego
María Jesús Tuñón, Jesús M Culebras, Javier González-Gallego, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Hepáticas (CIBERehd) and Institute of Biomedicine, University of León, 24071 León, Spain
Jesús M Culebras, Surgery Unit, Hospital of León, Altos de Nava, 24071 León, Spain
Marcelino Alvarez, Department of Animal Health, University of León, 24071 León, Spain
Author contributions: Tuñón MJ, Alvarez M, Culebras JM and González-Gallego J contributed equally to this work.
Correspondence to: María Jesús Tuñón, Professor, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Hepáticas (CIBERehd) and Institute of Biomedicine, University of León, 24071 León, Spain.
Telephone: + 34-987-291258
Fax: + 34-987-291267
Received: March 24, 2009
Revised: May 23, 2009
Accepted: May 30, 2009
Published online: July 7, 2009

Acute hepatic failure (AHF) is a severe liver injury accompanied by hepatic encephalopathy which causes multiorgan failure with an extremely high mortality rate, even if intensive care is provided. Management of severe AHF continues to be one of the most challenging problems in clinical medicine. Liver transplantation has been shown to be the most effective therapy, but the procedure is limited by shortage of donor organs. Although a number of clinical trials testing different liver assist devices are under way, these systems alone have no significant effect on patient survival and are only regarded as a useful approach to bridge patients with AHF to liver transplantation. As a result, reproducible experimental animal models resembling the clinical conditions are still needed. The three main approaches used to create an animal model for AHF are: surgical procedures, toxic liver injury and infective procedures. Most common models are based on surgical techniques (total/partial hepatectomy, complete/transient devascularization) or the use of hepatotoxic drugs (acetaminophen, galactosamine, thioacetamide, and others), and very few satisfactory viral models are available. We have recently developed a viral model of AHF by means of the inoculation of rabbits with the virus of rabbit hemorrhagic disease. This model displays biochemical and histological characteristics, and clinical features that resemble those in human AHF. In the present article an overview is given of the most widely used animal models of AHF, and their main advantages and disadvantages are reviewed.

Keywords: Acute hepatic failure, Surgical models, Chemical models, Viral models