Use of hepatocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (i-Heps) is limited by their functional differences in comparison with primary cells. Extracellular niche factors likely play a critical role in bridging this gap. Using image-based characterization (high content analysis; HCA) of freshly isolated hepatocytes from 17 human donors, we devised and validated an algorithm (Hepatocyte Likeness Index; HLI) for comparing the hepatic properties of cells against a physiological gold standard. The HLI was then applied in a targeted screen of extracellular niche factors to identify substrates driving i-Heps closer to the standard. Laminin 411, the top hit, was validated in two additional induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines, primary tissue, and an in vitro model of α1-antitrypsin deficiency. Cumulatively, these data provide a reference method to control and screen for i-Hep differentiation, identify Laminin 411 as a key niche protein, and underscore the importance of combining substrates, soluble factors, and HCA when developing iPSC applications.
Keywords: disease modeling; extracellular niche; iPS hepatocytes; image-based screening; laminin.
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