Hepatocytes are vulnerable to loss of function and viability in culture. Modified culture methods have been applied to maintain their functional status. Heterotypic interactions between hepatocytes and nonparenchymal neighbors in liver milieu are thought to modulate cell differentiation. Cocultivation of hepatocyte with various cell types has been applied to mimic the hepatic environment. Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC) are plastic cell lines capable of transforming to other cell types. In this study hepatocyte coculture with BMSCs achieved long-term function of human hepatocytes in culture for 4 weeks. In vitro functional status of human hepatocytes in BMSC coculture was compared with fibroblast coculture and collagen culture by measuring albumin, human-α-1-antitrypsin (hAAT), urea secretion, CYP450 activity, and staining for intracellular albumin and glycogen. After 2 weeks in culture hepatocytes were retrieved and transplanted to severe combined immunodeficiency/albumin linked-urokinase type plasminogen activator (SCID Alb-uPA) mice and engraft-ment capacity was analyzed by human hepatic-specific function measured by hAAT levels in mouse serum, and Alu staining of mouse liver for human hepatocytes. Hepatocytes from BMSC coculture had significantly higher albumin, hAAT secretion, urea production, and cytochrome P450 (CYP450) activity than other culture groups. Staining confirmed the higher functional status in BMSC coculture. Transplantation of hepatocytes detached from BMSC cocultures showed significantly higher engraftment function than hepatocytes from other culture groups measured by hAAT levels in mouse serum. In conclusion, BMSC coculture has excellent potential for hepatocyte function preservation in vitro and in vivo after transplant. It is possible to use BMSC hepatocyte coculture as a supply of cell therapy in liver disease.
Keywords: Bone marrow stromal cells; Human hepatocytes; In vitro function; In vivo function; SCID-uPA mouse.