Role of biomaterials, therapeutic molecules and cells for hepatic tissue engineering.
Primary hepatocytes cultured in three dimensional tissue constructs composed of multicellular aggregates maintain normal differentiated cellular function in vitro while cultured monolayers do not. Here, we report a technique to induce hepatocyte aggregate formation using type-I collagen-coated poly(L-lactic acid) (PLLA) discrete aligned nanofibers (disAFs) by providing limited cell-substrate adhesion strength and restricting cell migration to uniaxial movement. Kinetics of aggregate formation, morphology and biochemical activities of rat hepatocyte aggregates were tested over a 15 day culture period. Evidence was provided that physical cues from disAFs quickly induced the formation of aggregates. After 3 days in culture, 88.3% of free hepatocytes on disAFs were incorporated into aggregates with an average diameter of 61 +/- 18 microm. Hepatocyte aggregates formed on disAFs displayed excellent cell retention, cell activity and stable functional expression in terms of albumin secretion, urea synthesis and phase I and II (CYP1A and UGT) metabolic enzyme activity compared to monolayer culture of hepatocytes on tissue culture plastic (TCP) with type-I collagen as well as on meshes of type-I collagen-coated PLLA random nanofibers (meshRFs). These results suggest that disAFs may be a suitable method to maintain large-scale hepatic cultures with high activity for tissue engineering research and potential therapeutic applications, such as bioartificial liver devices.