One of the limitations to hepatocyte transplantation is the restricted availability of donor liver tissue. The aim of this study was to evaluate livers from non-heart-beating donors (NHBDs) as a source of hepatocytes for cell transplantation. A total of 20 livers/segments obtained from NHBD were perfused under good manufacturing practices using a standard collagenase digestion method. The donor liver median warm ischemia time was 15 minutes (range, 11-40 minutes), and cold ischemia time was 13 hours (range, 6-30 hours) prior to cell isolation. The cell viability of the hepatocytes obtained was 52% (1-81%), with a yield of 2.2 x 10(6)(0.2-29.7 x 10(6)) cells per gram of tissue. There was a significant negative correlation between hepatocyte viability and length of both warm ischemia (r = -0.544, P = 0.013) and cold ischemia (r = -0.510, P = 0.022). Preliminary experiments were performed on the viability testing of NHBD livers based on digestion of needle biopsies with collagenase and assessment of the hepatocytes produced. Two of the NHBD cell preparations, which had been cryopreserved, were used as part of a series of cell infusions for hepatocyte transplantation. A 3.5-yr-old girl with Crigler-Najjar syndrome type I received 9.7 x 10(8) NHBD hepatocytes (viability on thawing, 65%), and a 4-month-old boy with inherited clotting factor VII deficiency received 5.0 x 10(8) hepatocytes (viability, 57%). In conclusion, hepatocytes suitable for cell transplantation can be obtained from NHBD livers. Higher viability values may be obtained if both warm and cold ischemia times of donor liver can be reduced prior to processing.