Intraperitoneal transplantation of alginate-microencapsulated human hepatocytes is an attractive option for the management of acute liver failure (ALF) providing short-term support to allow native liver regeneration. The main aim of this study was to establish an optimised protocol for production of alginate-encapsulated human hepatocytes and evaluate their suitability for clinical use.
Human hepatocyte microbeads (HMBs) were prepared using sterile GMP grade materials. We determined physical stability, cell viability, and hepatocyte metabolic function of HMBs using different polymerisation times and cell densities. The immune activation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) after co-culture with HMBs was studied. Rats with ALF induced by galactosamine were transplanted intraperitoneally with rat hepatocyte microbeads (RMBs) produced using a similar optimised protocol. Survival rate and biochemical profiles were determined. Retrieved microbeads were evaluated for morphology and functionality.
The optimised HMBs were of uniform size (583.5±3.3 µm) and mechanically stable using 15 min polymerisation time compared to 10 min and 20 min (p<0.001). 3D confocal microscopy images demonstrated that hepatocytes with similar cell viability were evenly distributed within HMBs. Cell density of 3.5×10 6 cells/ml provided the highest viability. HMBs incubated in human ascitic fluid showed better cell viability and function than controls. There was no significant activation of PBMCs co-cultured with empty or hepatocyte microbeads, compared to PBMCs alone. Intraperitoneal transplantation of RMBs was safe and significantly improved the severity of liver damage compared to control groups (empty microbeads and medium alone; p<0.01). Retrieved RMBs were intact and free of immune cell adherence and contained viable hepatocytes with preserved function.