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Cell Tissue Bank. 2000;1(1):55-68.

Investigation of functional and morphological integrity of freshly isolated and cryopreserved human hepatocytes.

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  • 1International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine, Scranton, PA, USA; IIAM/T3, 125 May St., Suite 300, Edison, N7 08837, USA (Tel.: (732) 661-2367; E-mail: alina_ostrowska@mtt.org)


There is a pressing need for alternative therapeutic methods effective in the treatment of patients with liver insufficiency. Isolated human hepatocytes may be a viable alternative or adjunct to orthotopic liver transplantation in such patients. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the viability and functional integrity of freshly isolated and cryopreserved human hepatocytes, in preparation for a multi-center human hepatocyte transplantation trial. We are currently processing transplant-grade human parenchymal liver cells from nondiseased human livers that are obtained through a network of organ procurement organizations (OPOs). Thus far, sixteen hepatocyte transplants have been performed using hepatocytes processed by our methods. At the time of referral all specimens were deemed unsuitable for transplantation due to anatomical anomalies, high fat content, medical history, etc. Hepatocytes were isolated from encapsulated liver sections by a modified two-step perfusion technique. Isolated cells were cryopreserved and stored in liquid nitrogen for one to twelve months. The total yield of freshly isolated hepatocytes averaged 3.7x10(7) cells per gram of wet tissue. Based on trypan blue exclusion, fresh preparations contained an average of 85% viable hepatocytes vs. 70% in cryopreserved samples. The plating efficiencies of cells seeded immediately after isolation ranged from 87% to 98%, while those of cryopreserved/thawed cells were markedly lower. Flow cytometry analysis of cells labeled with 5,6-carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester (CFSE) showed that there was no significant difference in viability compared with trypan blue staining. Both freshly isolated hepatocytes and those recovered from cryopreservation showed typical and intact morphology as demonstrated by light and electron microscopy. The product of the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) reaction was always expressed more intensely in cultures of freshly isolated hepatocytes. Measurements of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) leakage were inversely correlated with trypan blue exclusion and CFSE labeling. Energy status, evaluated by the intracellular ATP concentration measurements, and various liver-specific functions such as urea synthesis and metabolism of 7-ethoxycoumarin were maintained both in fresh and cryopreserved/thawed hepatocytes. However, the activities were expressed at different levels in thawed cells. These data illustrate the importance and feasibility of human hepatocyte banking. In addition, it is clear that further refinements in the methods of hepatocyte isolation and cryopreservation are needed to utilize more fully these valuable cells in the clinic.

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