Human hepatocytes: isolation, cryopreservation and applications in drug development

Chem Biol Interact. 2007 May 20;168(1):16-29. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2007.01.001. Epub 2007 Jan 9.


The recent developments in the isolation, culturing, and cryopreservation of human hepatocytes, and the application of the cells in drug development are reviewed. Recent advances include the improvement of cryopreservation procedures to allow cell attachment, thereby extending the use of the cells to assays that requires prolong culturing such as enzyme induction studies. Applications of human hepatocytes in drug development include the evaluation of metabolic stability, metabolite profiling and identification, drug-drug interaction potential, and hepatotoxic potential. The use of intact human hepatocytes, because of the complete, undisrupted metabolic pathways and cofactors, allows the development of data more relevant to humans in vivo than tissue fractions such as human liver microsomes. Incorporation of key in vivo factors with the intact hepatocytes in vitro may help predictive human in vivo drug properties. For instance, evaluation of drug metabolism and drug-drug interactions with intact human hepatocytes in 100% human serum may eliminate the need to determine in vivo intracellular concentrations for the extrapolation of in vitro data to in vivo. Co-culturing of hepatocytes and nonhepatic primary cells from other organs in the integrated discrete multiple organ co-culture (IdMOC) may allow the evaluation of multiple organ interactions in drug metabolism and drug toxicity. In conclusion, human hepatocytes represent a critical experimental model for drug development, allowing early evaluation of human drug properties to guide the design and selection of drug candidates with a high probability of clinical success.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Cryopreservation*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects
  • Hepatocytes / enzymology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Toxicogenetics / methods


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System