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J Hepatol. 1986;3(1):7-18.

Cryopreservation of adult human hepatocytes. The influence of deep freezing storage on the viability, cell seeding, survival, fine structures and albumin synthesis in primary cultures.


Isolated and cultured human hepatocytes provide a useful model for studies of the liver cell function in man. In vitro studies using human hepatocytes are scarce, due to the limited availability and the lack of suitable methods for storage. In this study, we report the effect of deep freezing storage on the viability, fine structures and albumin synthesis of human adult hepatocytes in classical culture conditions. Hepatocytes were isolated using collagenase perfusion (9 isolations). The cell yield was 4-37 X 10(8) with a viability of 60-87%. Cryopreservation was performed in medium containing 10% DMSO and 20% fetal calf serum using a Cryoson BV-4 programmable freezer (0 degree C for 5 min, followed by a freezing rate of 1.5 degrees C/min for 20 min and 7 degrees C/min for 10 min). The cells were stored for 25-275 days in the liquid nitrogen vapor phase (-150 degrees C). Within 16 h about 80% of viable cells from freshly isolated hepatocytes whereas after cryopreservation, 55% of viable cells as determined by Trypan Blue exclusion before the cryopreservation attached to plastic and survived. Electron microscopy showed well developed tight junctions, structures similar to bile canaliculi. Cell polarity was evident. However, 'bleb' formation, more lipid droplets and lysosomes were found in cryopreserved hepatocytes during a short period after thawing. At the 3rd week, cells detached and died. These changes were associated with increased secretion of lactate dehydrogenase, whereas the albumin secretion dropped (from 10 to 4 micrograms/micrograms DNA), regardless of whether hepatocytes were cultured from fresh preparations or after cryopreservation. These findings suggest the cryopreservation is a useful technique to preserve hepatocytes for in vitro studies. Nevertheless, an improved method is necessary to increase the efficiency of cell seeding after cryopreservation.

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