Robust expansion and functional maturation of human hepatoblasts by chemical strategy

Stem Cell Res Ther. 2021 Feb 25;12(1):151. doi: 10.1186/s13287-021-02233-9.


Background: Chemically strategies to generate hepatic cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) for the potential clinical application have been improved. However, producing high quality and large quantities of hepatic cells remain challenging, especially in terms of step-wise efficacy and cost-effective production requires more improvements.

Methods: Here, we systematically evaluated chemical compounds for hepatoblast (HB) expansion and maturation to establish a robust, cost-effective, and reproducible methodology for self-renewal HBs and functional hepatocyte-like cell (HLC) production.

Results: The established chemical cocktail could enable HBs to proliferate nearly 3000 folds within 3 weeks with preserved bipotency. Moreover, those expanded HBs could be further efficiently differentiated into homogenous HLCs which displayed typical morphologic features and functionality as mature hepatocytes including hepatocyte identity marker expression and key functional activities such as cytochrome P450 metabolism activities and urea secretion. Importantly, the transplanted HBs in the injured liver of immune-defect mice differentiated as hepatocytes, engraft, and repopulate in the injured loci of the recipient liver.

Conclusion: Together, this chemical compound-based HLC generation method presents an efficient and cost-effective platform for the large-scale production of functional human hepatic cells for cell-based therapy and drug discovery application.

Keywords: Chemical cocktail; Hepatic maturation; Hepatoblast expansion; Small molecules; Stemness maintenance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy
  • Hepatocytes*
  • Humans
  • Liver
  • Mice
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells*