Introduction: Bioartificial livers (BALs) were originally developed to treat patients suffering from severe liver failure and relied on primary hepatocytes or on hepatoblastoma-derived cell lines. Currently, new in vitro BAL applications are emerging, including drug toxicity testing, disease modeling and basic clinical research, and in recent years, advances in the field of stem cell biology have resulted in potential alternative cell sources.
Areas covered: This review identifies the demands of clinical and in vitro BAL applications to their biocomponent and summarizes the functionality and developmental state of BAL technology and cell types currently available. Relevant studies identified by searching the MEDLINE database until April 2014 were reviewed, supplemented with some of our own unpublished data.
Expert opinion: BALs have the potential to meet demands currently left unmet in both clinical and in vitro applications. All the reviewed biocomponents show limitations towards one or more BAL applications. However, the generation of stem cell-derived hepatocyte-like cells is progressing rapidly, so the criteria for patient-specific drug toxicity screening and disease modeling are probably met in the near future. HepaRG cells are the most promising biocomponent for clinical BAL application, based on their proliferative and differentiation capacity.
Keywords: HepaRG; bioartificial liver; drug induced liver injury; hepatitis; hepatocyte; hepatocyte like cell; iHEP; induced pluripotent stem cell; liver; stem cell.