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Biochem Cell Biol. 2013 Jun;91(3):140-7. doi: 10.1139/bcb-2012-0079. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

The effects of human umbilical cord perivascular cells on rat hepatocyte structure and functional polarity.

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  • 1Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, 124 Edward Street, Toronto, ON M5G 1G6, Canada.


Hepatocyte culture is a useful tool for the study of their biology and the development of bioartificial livers. However, many challenges have to be overcome since hepatocytes rapidly lose their normal phenotype in vitro. We have recently demonstrated that human umbilical cord perivascular cells (HUCPVCs) are able to provide support to hepatocytes. In the present study we go further into exploring the effects that HUCPVCs have in the functional polarization, and both the internal and external organization, of hepatocytes. Also, we investigate HUCPVC-hepatocyte crosstalk by tracking both the effects of HUCPVCs on hepatocyte transcription factors and those of hepatocytes on the expression of hepatotrophic factors in HUCPVCs. Our results show that HUCPVCs maintain the functional polarity of hepatocytes ex vivo, as judged by the secretion of fluorescein into bile canaliculi, for at least 40 days. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that hepatocytes in coculture organize in an organoid-like structure embedded in extracellular matrix surrounded by HUCPVCs. In coculture, hepatocytes displayed a higher expression of C/EBPα, implicated in maintenance of the mature hepatocyte phenotype, and HUCPVCs upregulated hepatocyte growth factor and Jagged1 indicating that these genes may play important roles in HUCPVC-hepatocyte interactions.

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