Cultures of human liver cells in simulated microgravity environment

Adv Space Res. 1999;24(6):829-36. doi: 10.1016/s0273-1177(99)00079-4.


We used microgravity-simulated bioreactors that create the unique environment of low shear force and high-mass transfer to establish long-term cultures of primary human liver cells (HLC). To assess the feasibility of establishing HLC cultures, human liver cells obtained either from cells dissociated by collagenase perfusion or minced tissues were cultured in rotating vessels. Formation of multidimensional tissue-like spheroids (up to 1.0 cm) comprised of hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells that arranged as bile duct-like structures along newly formed vascular sprouts were observed. Electron microscopy revealed clusters of round hepatocytes and bile canaliculi with multiple microvilli and tight junctions. Scanning EM revealed rounded hepatocytes that were organized in tight clusters surrounded by a complex mesh of extracellular matrix. Also, we observed that co-culture of hepatocytes with endothelial cells stimulate albumin mRNA expression. In summary, a simulated microgravity environment is conducive for the establishment of long-term HLC cultures and allows the dissection of the mechanism of liver regeneration and cell-to-cell interactions that resembles in vivo conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / genetics
  • Bioreactors*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Gene Expression
  • Gravitation
  • Humans
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Liver / physiology
  • Liver / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Rotation
  • Weightlessness Simulation*


  • Albumins
  • RNA, Messenger