Differentiation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells into hepatocyte-like cells in an alginate scaffold

N Lin, J Lin, L Bo, P Weidong, S Chen, R Xu
Cell Proliferation 2010, 43 (5): 427-34

OBJECTIVES: Alginate scaffolds are the most frequently investigated biomaterials in tissue engineering. Tissue engineering techniques that generate liver tissue have become important for treatment of a number of liver diseases and recent studies indicate that bone marrow-derived stem cells (BMSCs) can differentiate into hepatocyte-like cells. The goal of the study described here, was to examine in vitro hepatic differentiation potential of BMSCs cultured in an alginate scaffold.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: To investigate the potential of BMSCs to differentiate into hepatocyte-like cells, we cultured BMSCs in alginate scaffolds in the presence of specific growth factors including hepatocyte growth factor, epidermal growth factor and fibroblast growth factor-4.

RESULTS: We can demonstrate that alginate scaffolds are compatible for growth of BMSCs and when cultured in alginate scaffolds for several days they display several liver-specific markers and functions. Specifically, they expressed genes encoding alpha-foetoprotein, albumin (ALB), connexin 32 and CYP7A1. In addition, these BMSCs produced both ALB and urea, expressed cytokeratin-18 (CK-18) and were capable of glycogen storage. Percentage of CK-18 positive cells, a marker of hepatocytes, was 56.7%.

CONCLUSIONS: Our three-dimensional alginate scaffolds were highly biocompatible with BMSCs. Furthermore, culturing induced their differentiation into hepatocyte-like cells. Therefore, BMSCs cultured in alginate scaffolds may be applicable for hepatic tissue engineering.

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