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Isolated Hepatocytes Versus Hepatocyte Spheroids: In Vitro Culture of Rat Hepatocytes

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The use of hepatocytes that express liver-specific functions to develop an artificial liver is promising. Unfortunately, the loss of specialized liver functions (dedifferentiation) is still a major problem. Different techniques, such as collagen entrapment, spherical multicellular aggregates (spheroids), and coculture of hepatocytes with extracellular matrix, have been used to improve the performance of hepatocytes in culture. The aim of this study was to compare two different models of hepatocyte isolation in culture: isolated hepatocytes (G1) and hepatocyte spheroids (60% hepatocytes, 40% nonparenchymal cells, and extracellular matrix) (G2). To test functional activity of hepatocytes, both synthetic and metabolic, production of albumin and benzodiazepine transformation into metabolites was tested. G2 showed a high albumin secretion, while a decrease after 15 days of culture in G1 was noted. Diazepam metabolites were higher in G2 than in G1 in all samples, but had statistical significance at days 14 and 21 (p < 0.01). The glycogen content, after 30 days of culture, was very low in G1 (14.2 ± 4.4%), while in G2 it was 72.1 ± 2.6% (p < 0.01). Our study confirms the effectiveness of a culture technique with extracellular matrix and nonparenchymal cells. Maintenance of a prolonged functional activity has been related to restoration of cell polarity and close cell-to-cell contact. We showed that isolated hepatocytes maintain their functional activity for a period significantly reduced, when compared to the hepatocyte spheroids. We confirmed the role of extracellular matrix as a crucial component to promote hepatocyte homeostasis, and the close link between cellular architecture and tissue-specific functions.
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Keywords: Albumin; Benzodiazepine; Culture; Hepatocyte spheroids; Isolation; Matrix

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Surgical and Gastroenterologic Sciences, Liver Transplant Unit, School of Medicine, University of Padova, Via Giustiniani 2, 35128 Padova, Italy 2: Interdisciplinary Center for Biomedical Research (CIR), Laboratory of Internal Medicine and Hepatology, University “Campus Bio-Medico,” Roma, Italy

Publication date: 2005-06-01

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

    Cell Transplantation is now being published by SAGE. Please visit their website for the most recent issues.

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