Objective: Liver regeneration is mainly based on cellular self-renewal including progenitor cells. Efforts have been made to harness this potential for cell transplantation, but shortage of hepatocytes and premature differentiated progenitor cells from extra-hepatic organs are limiting factors. Histological studies implied that resident cells in adult liver can proliferate, have bipotential character and may be a suitable source for cell transplantation.
Methods: Particular cell populations were isolated after adequate tissue dissociation. Single cell suspensions were purified by Thy-1 positivity selection, characterised in vitro and transplanted in immunodeficient Pfp/Rag2 mice.
Results: Thy-1+ cells that are mainly found in the portal tract and the surrounding parenchyma, were isolated from surgical liver tissue with high yields from specimens with histological signs of regeneration. Thy-1+ cell populations were positive for progenitor (CD34, c-kit, CK14, M2PK, OV6), biliary (CK19) and hepatic (HepPar1) markers revealing their progenitor as well as hepatic and biliary nature. The potential of Thy-1+ cells for differentiation in vitro was demonstrated by increased mRNA and protein expression for hepatic (CK18, HepPar1) and biliary (CK7) markers during culture while progenitor markers CK14, chromogranin A and nestin were reduced. After transplantation of Thy-1+ cells into livers of immunodeficient mice, engraftment was predominantly seen in the periportal portion of the liver lobule. Analysis of in situ material revealed that transplanted cells express human hepatic markers HepPar1 and albumin, indicating functional engraftment.
Conclusion: Bipotential progenitor cells from human adult livers can be isolated using Thy-1 and might be a potential candidate for cell treatment in liver diseases.
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Funding: This work was supported by a fellowship of the medical department, University of Regensburg (ReForM-C program).
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: Use of human tissue samples in this study was approved by the ethics committee of the University of Regensburg. All housing and experimental procedures using animals were in accordance with the most recent German legislation concerning animal protection.
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