Generation of functional hepatocyte-like cells from human pluripotent stem cells in a scalable suspension culture

Stem Cells Dev. 2013 Oct 15;22(20):2693-705. doi: 10.1089/scd.2013.0088. Epub 2013 Jul 9.


Recent advances in human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cell-based therapies in animal models of hepatic failure have led to an increased appreciation of the need to translate the proof-of-principle concepts into more practical and feasible protocols for scale up and manufacturing of functional hepatocytes. In this study, we describe a scalable stirred-suspension bioreactor culture of functional hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) from the human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). To promote the initial differentiation of hPSCs in a carrier-free suspension stirred bioreactor into definitive endoderm, we used rapamycin for "priming" phase and activin A for induction. The cells were further differentiated into HLCs in the same system. HLCs were characterized and then purified based on their physiological function, the uptake of DiI-acetylated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by flow cytometry without genetic manipulation or antibody labeling. The sorted cells were transplanted into the spleens of mice with acute liver injury from carbon tetrachloride. The differentiated HLCs had multiple features of primary hepatocytes, for example, the expression patterns of liver-specific marker genes, albumin secretion, urea production, collagen synthesis, indocyanin green and LDL uptake, glycogen storage, and inducible cytochrome P450 activity. They increased the survival rate, engrafted successfully into the liver, and continued to present hepatic function (i.e., albumin secretion after implantation). This amenable scaling up and outlined enrichment strategy provides a new platform for generating functional HLCs. This integrated approach may facilitate biomedical applications of the hPSC-derived hepatocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activins / pharmacology
  • Albumins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Bioreactors
  • Carbocyanines / chemistry
  • Carbon Tetrachloride / toxicity*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / pathology*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / therapy*
  • Collagen / biosynthesis
  • Endoderm / cytology
  • Endoderm / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / physiology
  • Hepatocytes / transplantation*
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology
  • Spleen
  • Transplantation, Heterotopic


  • 3,3'-dihexadecylindocarbocyanine
  • Albumins
  • Carbocyanines
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • activin A
  • Activins
  • Collagen
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Sirolimus