Research ArticleBioengineering

An extracorporeal bioartificial liver embedded with 3D-layered human liver progenitor-like cells relieves acute liver failure in pigs

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Science Translational Medicine  08 Jul 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 551, eaba5146
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aba5146

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Beneficial bioartificial livers

Bioartificial livers are an attractive option as a bridge to transplant or to promote liver regeneration in cases of acute liver failure. Here, Li et al. tested an extracorporeal bioartificial liver system composed of human liver progenitor-like cells cultured on macroporous scaffolds in a bioreactor that provides alternating air-liquid exposure. Three hours of treatment improved survival, reducing inflammation and promoting native liver regeneration in pigs with drug-induced acute liver failure. Results suggest extracorporeal cell-based bioartificial livers may be a promising treatment for acute liver failure.


Clinical advancement of the bioartificial liver is hampered by the lack of expandable human hepatocytes and appropriate bioreactors and carriers to encourage hepatic cells to function during extracorporeal circulation. We have recently developed an efficient approach for derivation of expandable liver progenitor-like cells from human primary hepatocytes (HepLPCs). Here, we generated immortalized and functionally enhanced HepLPCs by introducing FOXA3, a hepatocyte nuclear factor that enables potentially complete hepatic function. When cultured on macroporous carriers in an air-liquid interactive bioartificial liver (Ali-BAL) support device, the integrated cells were alternately exposed to aeration and nutrition and grew to form high-density three-dimensional constructs. This led to highly efficient mass transfer and supported liver functions such as albumin biosynthesis and ammonia detoxification via ureagenesis. In a porcine model of drug overdose–induced acute liver failure (ALF), extracorporeal Ali-BAL treatment for 3 hours prevented hepatic encephalopathy and led to markedly improved survival (83%, n = 6) compared to ALF control (17%, n = 6, P = 0.02) and device-only (no-cell) therapy (0%, n = 6, P = 0.003). The blood ammonia concentrations, as well as the biochemical and coagulation indices, were reduced in Ali-BAL–treated pigs. Ali-BAL treatment attenuated liver damage, ameliorated inflammation, and enhanced liver regeneration in the ALF porcine model and could be considered as a potential therapeutic avenue for patients with ALF.

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