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The safety and short-term efficacy of hepatocyte transplantation (HCTx) have been widely proven. However, issues such as reduced viability and/or function of hepatocytes, insufficient engraftment, and lack of a long-term effect have to be overcome for widespread application of HCTx. In this study, we evaluated hepatocyte spheroids (HSs), formed by self-aggregation of hepatocytes, as an alternative to hepatocytes in single-cell suspension. Hepatocytes were isolated from C57BL/6 J mice liver using a three-step collagenase perfusion technique and HSs were formed by the hanging drop method. After the spheroids formation, the HSs showed significantly higher mRNA expression of albumin, ornithine transcarbamylase, glucose-6-phosphate, alpha-1-antitrypsin, low density lipoprotein receptor, coagulation factors, and apolipoprotein E (ApoE) than 2 dimensional (2D)-cultured hepatocytes (p < 0.05). Albumin production by HSs was significantly higher than that by 2D-cultured hepatocytes (9.5 ± 2.5 vs 3.5 ± 1.8 μg/dL, p < 0.05). The HSs, but not single hepatocytes, maintained viability and albumin mRNA expression in suspension (92.0 ± 2.8% and 1.03 ± 0.09 at 6 h). HSs (3.6 × 106 cells) or isolated hepatocytes (fSH, 3.6 × 106 cells) were transplanted into the liver of ApoE knockout (KO-/-) mice via the portal vein. Following transplantation, serum ApoE concentration (ng/mL) of HS-transplanted mice (1w: 63.1 ± 56.7, 4w: 17.0 ± 10.9) was higher than that of fSH-transplanted mice (1 w: 33.4 ± 13.0, 4w: 13.7 ± 9.6). In both groups, the mRNA levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-1β, TNF-α, MCP-1, and MIP-1β) were upregulated in the liver following transplantation; however, no significant differences were observed. Pathologically, transplanted HSs were observed as flat cell clusters in contact with the portal vein wall on day 7. Additionally, ApoE positive cells were observed in the liver parenchyma distant from the portal vein on day 28. Our results indicate that HS is a promising alternative to single hepatocytes and can be applied for HCTx.


Kazuaki Shibuya, Masaaki Watanabe, Ryoichi Goto, Masaaki Zaitsu, Yoshikazu Ganchiku, Akinobu Taketomi. The Efficacy of the Hepatocyte Spheroids for Hepatocyte Transplantation. Cell transplantation. 2021 Jan-Dec;30:9636897211000014

PMID: 33900126

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