Tissue Engineering Part A vol:17 issue:17-18 pages:2331-2341
Hepatocyte-like cells derived from stem cells hold great potential for clinical and pharmaceutical applications, including high-throughput drug toxicity screening. We report a three-dimensional aggregate culture system for the directed differentiation of adult rat bone marrow-derived stem cells, rat multipotent adult progenitor cells, to hepatocyte-like cells. Compared to adherent monolayer cultures, differentiation in the aggregate culture system resulted in significantly higher expression level of liver-specific transcripts, including an increased albumin mRNA level, and higher levels of albumin and urea secretion. This coincides with the presence of significantly more cells that express intracellular albumin at levels found in primary hepatocytes. The differentiated cell aggregates exhibited cytochrome P450-mediated ethoxyresorufin-O-dealkylation and pentoxyresorufin-O-dealkylation activity. Consistent with these increased mature functions, cells within the aggregates were shown to have many ultrastructural features of mature hepatocytes by transmission electron microscopy. With the scalability of the aggregate culture system and the enhanced differentiation capability, this system may facilitate translation of generating hepatocytes from stem cells to technology.