Scaling-up of a HepaRG progenitor cell based bioartificial liver: optimization for clinical application and transport

Biofabrication. 2017 Jun 30;9(3):035001. doi: 10.1088/1758-5090/aa7657.


A new generation of bioartificial livers, based on differentiated proliferative hepatocyte sources, has been developed. Several practicable and regulatory demands have to be addressed before these can be clinically evaluated. We identified three main hurdles: (1) expansion and preservation of the biocomponent, (2) development of scaled-up culture conditions and (3) transport of the device to the bedside. In this study we address these three issues for the HepaRG-progenitor cell line-loaded AMC-Bioartificial Liver. (1) HepaRG cells were expanded in large quantities and then cryopreserved or loaded directly into bioreactors. After 3 weeks of culture, key hepatic functions (ammonia/lactate elimination, apolipoprotein A1 synthesis and cytochrome P450 3A4 activity) did not differ significantly between the two groups. (2) Bioartificial livers were scaled up from 9 ml to 540 ml priming volume, with preservation of normalized hepatic functionality. Quantification of amino acid consumption revealed rapid depletion of several amino acids. (3) Whole-device cryopreservation and cooled preservation induced significant loss of hepatic functionality, whereas simulated transport from culture-facility to the bedside in a clinical-grade transport unit with controlled temperature maintenance, medium perfusion and gas supply did not affect functionality. In addition, we assessed tumorigenicity of HepaRG cells in immune-incompetent mice and found no tumor formation of HepaRG cells (n = 12), while HeLa cells induced formation of carcinomas in eight out of 12 mice in 140 days.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cryopreservation
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Liver, Artificial*
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, SCID
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Transportation*