Selecting Cells for Bioartificial Liver Devices and the Importance of a 3D Culture Environment: A Functional Comparison between the HepaRG and C3A Cell Lines

Int J Biol Sci. 2016 Jun 24;12(8):964-78. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.15165. eCollection 2016.


Recently, the first clinical trials on Bioartificial Livers (BALs) loaded with a proliferative human hepatocyte cell source have started. There are two cell lines that are currently in an advanced state of BAL development; HepaRG and HepG2/C3A. In this study we aimed to compare both cell lines on applicability in BALs and to identify possible strategies for further improvement. We tested both cell lines in monolayer- and BAL cultures on growth characteristics, hepatic differentiation, nitrogen-, carbohydrate-, amino acid- and xenobiotic metabolism. Interestingly, both cell lines adapted the hepatocyte phenotype more closely when cultured in BALs; e.g. monolayer cultures produced lactate, while BAL cultures showed diminished lactate production (C3A) or conversion to elimination (HepaRG), and urea cycle activity increased upon BAL culturing in both cell lines. HepaRG-BALs outperformed C3A-BALs on xenobiotic metabolism, ammonia elimination and lactate elimination, while protein synthesis was comparable. In BAL cultures of both cell lines ammonia elimination correlated positively with glutamine production and glutamate consumption, suggesting ammonia elimination was mainly driven by the balance between glutaminase and glutamine synthetase activity. Both cell lines lacked significant urea cycle activity and both required multiple culture weeks before reaching optimal differentiation in BALs. In conclusion, culturing in BALs enhanced hepatic functionality of both cell lines and from these, the HepaRG cells are the most promising proliferative cell source for BAL application.

Keywords: BAL; Bioartificial liver.; C3A; HepaRG; Hepatocytes; Liver support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver, Artificial*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction