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Tissue Eng Part A. 2010 Mar;16(3):1075-82. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2008.0587.

Maintenance of human hepatocyte function in vitro by liver-derived extracellular matrix gels.

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  • 1Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA.


Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (TE&RM) approaches to treating liver disease have the potential to provide temporary support with biohybrid-liver-assist devices or long-term therapy by replacing the diseased liver with functional constructs. A rate-limiting step for TE&RM strategies has been the loss of hepatocyte-specific functions after hepatocytes are isolated from their highly specialized in vivo microenvironment and placed in in vitro culture systems. The identification of a biologic substrate that can maintain a functional hepatocyte differentiation profile during in vitro culture would advance potential TE&RM therapeutic strategies. The present study compared two different biologic substrates for their ability to support human hepatocyte function in vitro: porcine-liver-derived extracellular matrix (PLECM) or Matrigel. Because Matrigel has been shown to be the most useful matrix for static, traditional hepatocyte culture, we directly compared PLECM with Matrigel in each experiment. Albumin secretion, hepatic transport activity, and ammonia metabolism were used to determine hepatocyte function. Hepatocytes cultured between two layers of PLECM or Matrigel showed equally high levels of albumin expression and secretion, ammonia metabolism, and hepatic transporter expression and function. We conclude that like Matrigel, PLECM represents a favorable substrate for in vitro culture of human hepatocytes.

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