An improved ex vivo method of primary porcine hepatocyte isolation for use in bioartificial liver systems

L J Nelson, P N Newsome, A F Howie, P W Hadoke, K J Dabos, S W Walker, P C Hayes, J N Plevris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: Primary porcine hepatocytes are commonly, used in bioartificial liver devices and for in vitro studies of hepatocyte function. Although in vivo isolation of porcine hepatocytes can give high yield and viability, such methods are time-consuming and expensive, requiring specialist surgical facilities.

AIM: To develop a simple, low-cost, high viability, high yield, reproducible ex vivo method for obtaining functional porcine hepatocytes for use in bioartificial liver systems.

METHODS: Weanling piglets (12 kg) were killed with pentobarbitone sodium, the infra-hepatic inferior vena cava was clamped and the supra-hepatic inferior vena cava cannulated. The whole liver was retrogradely perfused in situ with cold saline and excised, followed by an ex vivo open-loop and re-circulating perfusion method (at 37 degrees C) in five steps. The liver was disrupted, sequentially filtered in washing buffer, purified by centrifugation and resuspended in Williams E medium. Viability and cell number were assessed using trypan blue exclusion. The cells were subsequently cultured in serum-free chemically-defined medium and function was assessed.

RESULTS: The time interval from when the animals were killed to the final cell wash was 105+/-5 min (n = 20). Cell viability was 85+/-6% with a yield of (2.4+/-0.5) x 10(10) from 12+/-1 kg piglets using 0.03% (w/v) collagenase (n = 20). Hepatocytes from all isolations were successfully plated and grown in monolayer culture. In freshly isolated hepatocytes (day 0) total protein content (TP) was 1.2+/-0.1 mg/10(6) cells (n = 5) and 1.2+/-0.3 mg/10(6) cells (n = 5) for day 2 monolayer cultures, corresponding to approximately 9x10(6) hepatocytes per dish. The percentage of total LDH released into the medium was 13+/-4% for day 0 and 8+/-4% at day 2; conversely, intracellular LDH activities were 87+/-4% and 92+/-4% of the total, respectively. The urea synthesis rate was 196+/-36 nmol/h/mg total protein at day 0 (n = 5) and 292+/-62 nmol/h/mg protein (n = 9) at day 2. The total P450 content was 99+/-11 pmol/mg total protein for fresh cells (n = 5) and maintained at 89+/-35 pmol/mg total protein in day 2 cultures.

CONCLUSIONS: This ex vivo method provides a high viability, high yield, cost-effective and rapid technique for isolating functional porcine hepatocytes with high plating efficiency, which compares favourably with results obtained using complex in vivo techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-30
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2000


  • Animals
  • Cell Separation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Hepatocytes
  • Liver, Artificial
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Swine


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