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Arch Toxicol. 2014 Feb;88(2):199-212. doi: 10.1007/s00204-013-1123-4. Epub 2013 Sep 8.

Primary hepatocytes and their cultures in liver apoptosis research.

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Department of Toxicology (FAFY), Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Center for Pharmaceutical Research (CePhaR), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Laarbeeklaan 103, 1090, Brussels, Belgium,


Apoptosis not only plays a key role in physiological demise of defunct hepatocytes, but is also associated with a plethora of acute and chronic liver diseases as well as with hepatotoxicity. The present paper focuses on the modelling of this mode of programmed cell death in primary hepatocyte cultures. Particular attention is paid to the activation of spontaneous apoptosis during the isolation of hepatocytes from the liver, its progressive manifestation upon the subsequent establishment of cell cultures and simultaneously to strategies to counteract this deleterious process. In addition, currently applied approaches to experimentally induce controlled apoptosis in this in vitro setting for mechanistic research purposes and thereby its detection using relevant biomarkers are reviewed.

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