Advanced Techniques and Awaited Clinical Applications for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Differentiation into Hepatocytes

Hepatology. 2021 Aug;74(2):1101-1116. doi: 10.1002/hep.31705. Epub 2021 Aug 22.


Liver transplantation is currently the only curative treatment for several liver diseases such as acute liver failure, end-stage liver disorders, primary liver cancers, and certain genetic conditions. Unfortunately, despite improvements to transplantation techniques, including live donor transplantation, the number of organs available remains insufficient to meet patient needs. Hepatocyte transplantation has enabled some encouraging results as an alternative to organ transplantation, but primary hepatocytes are little available and cannot be amplified using traditional two-dimensional culture systems. Indeed, although recent studies have tended to show that three-dimensional culture enables long-term hepatocyte culture, it is still agreed that, like most adult primary cell types, hepatocytes remain refractory to in vitro expansion. Because of their exceptional properties, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can be amplified indefinitely and differentiated into any cell type, including liver cells. While many teams have worked on hepatocyte differentiation, there has been a consensus that cells obtained after hPSC differentiation have more fetal than adult hepatocyte characteristics. New technologies have been used to improve the differentiation process in recent years. This review discusses the technical improvements made to hepatocyte differentiation protocols and the clinical approaches developed to date and anticipated in the near future.

Publication types

  • Review