Bioprinted 3D Primary Liver Tissues Allow Assessment of Organ-Level Response to Clinical Drug Induced Toxicity In Vitro

PLoS One. 2016 Jul 7;11(7):e0158674. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158674. eCollection 2016.


Modeling clinically relevant tissue responses using cell models poses a significant challenge for drug development, in particular for drug induced liver injury (DILI). This is mainly because existing liver models lack longevity and tissue-level complexity which limits their utility in predictive toxicology. In this study, we established and characterized novel bioprinted human liver tissue mimetics comprised of patient-derived hepatocytes and non-parenchymal cells in a defined architecture. Scaffold-free assembly of different cell types in an in vivo-relevant architecture allowed for histologic analysis that revealed distinct intercellular hepatocyte junctions, CD31+ endothelial networks, and desmin positive, smooth muscle actin negative quiescent stellates. Unlike what was seen in 2D hepatocyte cultures, the tissues maintained levels of ATP, Albumin as well as expression and drug-induced enzyme activity of Cytochrome P450s over 4 weeks in culture. To assess the ability of the 3D liver cultures to model tissue-level DILI, dose responses of Trovafloxacin, a drug whose hepatotoxic potential could not be assessed by standard pre-clinical models, were compared to the structurally related non-toxic drug Levofloxacin. Trovafloxacin induced significant, dose-dependent toxicity at clinically relevant doses (≤ 4uM). Interestingly, Trovafloxacin toxicity was observed without lipopolysaccharide stimulation and in the absence of resident macrophages in contrast to earlier reports. Together, these results demonstrate that 3D bioprinted liver tissues can both effectively model DILI and distinguish between highly related compounds with differential profile. Thus, the combination of patient-derived primary cells with bioprinting technology here for the first time demonstrates superior performance in terms of mimicking human drug response in a known target organ at the tissue level.

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / metabolism
  • Bioprinting*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / diagnosis*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A / metabolism
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Fluoroquinolones / administration & dosage
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Levofloxacin / administration & dosage
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Naphthyridines / administration & dosage
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / metabolism


  • Albumins
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Naphthyridines
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Levofloxacin
  • trovafloxacin
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • CYP3A4 protein, human

Grant support

All studies were funded internally by Roche Pharmaceuticals and Organovo Holdings Inc. No specific awards or grants funded this work. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.