Cultivated Human Liver Tissue can be Used For Transplantation

Liver cells grown on resorbable scaffolds made from material similar to surgical sutures can potentially be used to for liver transplantations. Such material can substitute for donor organs during liver transplantation or the bridge period until a suitable donor is available for patients with acute liver failure. This study was published in the February issue of Liver Transplantation, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
As of January 2011, more than 16,000 Americans are on the waiting list to receive a suitable liver according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Liver cell (hepatocyte) transplantations offer a possible solution to overcome this organ shortage. In addition, liver cells have excellent regenerative potential, which makes liver cell transplantation a viable therapeutic approach for patients with metabolic defects or fulminant hepatic failure as the native liver is preserved while liver dysfunction may resolve as regeneration occurs.
The Head of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Cell Transplantation at the University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany, Dr. Joerg-Matthias Pollok, said “Currently isolated liver cells are used for liver cell transplantation, but these cells suffer during cell isolation and cryopreservation, which is one reason there is limited success with this type of transplant procedure.” By applying a tissue engineering approach, these researchers were able to successfully create new liver tissue that provides a potential solution to the obstacles challenging liver cell transplantation.
The team isolated liver cells from 12 human liver specimens with a viability of 82%. After a two-day culture period, liver cells formed tightly packed cellular aggregates, called spheroids, and took on a liver-like appearance. Human liver cells were distributed across a three-dimensional porous structure of the polymer scaffolding. From day two – four, the average number of spheroids more than doubled from 18 to 41 per visual field. Pollok continued, “Our experimental model represents a promising technique to culture human liver cells and prepare them for transplantation on a biodegradable polymer scaffold into the peritoneal cavity . . . Further studies are underway to confirm our results and may ultimately offer viable clinical options for liver cell transplantation in the future.”