Recent development in cell encapsulations and their therapeutic applications.
Bioencapsulation of cells is one of the many areas of artificial cells being extensively investigated by centers around the world. This includes the bioencapsulation of hepatocytes. A number of methods have been developed to maintain the specific function and phenotype of the bioencapsulated hepatocytes for in vitro and in vivo applications. These include supplementation of factors in the culture medium; use of appropriate substrates and the co-cultivation of hepatocytes with other type of cells, the so called "feeder cells". These feeder cells can be of liver origin or non-liver origin. We have recently studied the role of bone marrow cells in the maintenance of hepatocytes viability and phenotype by using the coculture of hepatocytes with bone marrow cells (nucleated cells including stem cells), and the coencapsulation of hepatocytes with bone marrow stem cells. This way, the hepatocytes viability and specific function can be maintained significantly longer. In vivo studies of both syngeneic and xenogeneic transplantation show that the hepatocytes viability can be maintained longer when coencapsulated with bone marrow cells. Transplantation of coencapsulated hepatocytes and bone marrow cells enhances the ability of the hepatocytes in correcting congenital hyperbilirubinmia in Gunn rats. Both in vitro and in vivo studies show that bone marrow cells can enhance the viability and phenotype maintenance of hepatocytes. Thus, bone marrow cells play an important role as a new type of feeder cells for bioencapsulated hepatocytes for the cellular therapy of liver diseases.