Three-dimensional spatially resolved geometrical and functional models of human liver tissue reveal new aspects of NAFLD progression

Nat Med. 2019 Dec;25(12):1885-1893. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0660-7. Epub 2019 Dec 2.


Early disease diagnosis is key to the effective treatment of diseases. Histopathological analysis of human biopsies is the gold standard to diagnose tissue alterations. However, this approach has low resolution and overlooks 3D (three-dimensional) structural changes resulting from functional alterations. Here, we applied multiphoton imaging, 3D digital reconstructions and computational simulations to generate spatially resolved geometrical and functional models of human liver tissue at different stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We identified a set of morphometric cellular and tissue parameters correlated with disease progression, and discover profound topological defects in the 3D bile canalicular (BC) network. Personalized biliary fluid dynamic simulations predicted an increased pericentral biliary pressure and micro-cholestasis, consistent with elevated cholestatic biomarkers in patients' sera. Our spatially resolved models of human liver tissue can contribute to high-definition medicine by identifying quantitative multiparametric cellular and tissue signatures to define disease progression and provide new insights into NAFLD pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bile Canaliculi / pathology
  • Biliary Tract / pathology
  • Cholestasis / diagnosis
  • Cholestasis / pathology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Disease Progression
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / diagnosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology*