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Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2015 Jul;21(7):705-15. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2014.0453. Epub 2015 Feb 11.

Induction of Hepatic and Endothelial Differentiation by Perfusion in a Three-Dimensional Cell Culture Model of Human Fetal Liver.

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1 Department of Surgery, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
2 Department of Bioengineering, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
3 Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


The development of functional engineered tissue constructs depends on high cell densities and appropriate vascularization. In this study we implemented a four-compartment three-dimensional perfusion bioreactor culture model for studying the effects of medium perfusion on endothelial, hepatic, and hematopoietic cell populations of primary human fetal liver in an in vivo-like environment. Human fetal liver cells were cultured in bioreactors configured to provide either perfusion or diffusion conditions. Metabolic activities of the cultures were monitored daily by measuring glucose consumption and lactate production. Cell viability during culture was analyzed by lactate dehydrogenase activity. Hepatic functionality was determined by the release of albumin and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in culture medium samples. After 4 days of culture, cells were analyzed for the expression of a variety of endothelial, hepatic, and hematopoietic genes, as well as the surface marker expression of CD31 and CD34 in flow cytometry. We found that medium perfusion increased the gene expression of endothelial markers such as CD31, von Willebrand factor (vWF), CD140b, CD309, and CD144 while decreasing the gene expression of the erythrocyte-surface marker CD235a. Hepatic differentiation was promoted under perfusion conditions as demonstrated by lower AFP and higher albumin secretion compared with cultures not exposed to medium perfusion. Additionally, cultures exposed to medium perfusion gave higher rates of glucose consumption and lactate production, indicating increased metabolic activity. In conclusion, high-density bioreactors configured to provide constant medium perfusion significantly induced hepatic and endothelial cell differentiation and provided improved conditions for the culture of human fetal liver cells compared with cultures without perfusion.

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