Hepatic differentiation of human iPSCs in different 3D models: A comparative study

Int J Mol Med. 2017 Dec;40(6):1759-1771. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2017.3190. Epub 2017 Oct 16.


Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) are a promising source from which to derive distinct somatic cell types for in vitro or clinical use. Existent protocols for hepatic differentiation of hiPSCs are primarily based on 2D cultivation of the cells. In the present study, the authors investigated the generation of hiPSC-derived hepatocyte-like cells using two different 3D culture systems: A 3D scaffold-free microspheroid culture system and a 3D hollow-fiber perfusion bioreactor. The differentiation outcome in these 3D systems was compared with that in conventional 2D cultures, using primary human hepatocytes as a control. The evaluation was made based on specific mRNA expression, protein secretion, antigen expression and metabolic activity. The expression of α-fetoprotein was lower, while cytochrome P450 1A2 or 3A4 activities were higher in the 3D culture systems as compared with the 2D differentiation system. Cells differentiated in the 3D bioreactor showed an increased expression of albumin and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α, as well as secretion of α-1-antitrypsin as compared with the 2D differentiation system, suggesting a higher degree of maturation. In contrast, the 3D scaffold-free microspheroid culture provides an easy and robust method to generate spheroids of a defined size for screening applications, while the bioreactor culture model provides an instrument for complex investigations under physiological-like conditions. In conclusion, the present study introduces two 3D culture systems for stem cell derived hepatic differentiation each demonstrating advantages for individual applications as well as benefits in comparison with 2D cultures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Bioreactors
  • Cell Culture Techniques* / instrumentation
  • Cell Culture Techniques* / methods
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Equipment Design
  • Hepatocytes / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Perfusion / instrumentation
  • Perfusion / methods