Cell cultures in drug discovery and development: The need of reliable in vitro-in vivo extrapolation for pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics assessment.
INTRODUCTION The development of a bioreactor providing a three-dimensional network of interwoven capillary membranes with integrated oxygenation and decentralized mass exchange enables the culture of primary human liver cells from discarded donor organs for extracorporeal liver support. METHODS Primary liver cells were isolated from 54 discarded organs (donor age 56.7+/-13.2 years). Between 2.8x10(10) and 6.4x10(10) parenchymal cells (PC) were cocultured with nonparenchymal cells (NPC) of the same organ in bioreactors (n=36). The metabolic activity of the cells was regularly determined during culture. The cell morphology and ultrastructure were investigated after culture periods of 1 to 5 weeks. RESULTS Cell metabolism was maintained over at least 3 weeks after a phase of adaptation lasting 2 to 3 days. Through the use of transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry, it was demonstrated that PC and NPC spontaneously formed tissue-like structures. Vascular cavities (CD 31 immunoreactivity [IR]) and bile duct-like channels (CK 19 IR), both exhibiting proliferation activity (Ki-67 IR), were regularly distributed. Some of the bile duct-like channels showed similarities to the Canals of Hering found in the natural liver. Cells expressing morphologic and antigenic characteristics of adult liver stem cells (CD 34 IR and c-kit IR) and areas with cells that showed both hepatocyte and biliary characteristics were detected. CONCLUSION The results show that primary human liver cells obtained from discarded donor organs recover and can be maintained in bioreactors for clinical liver support therapy. In addition, initial observations on adult liver stem-cell culture in bioreactors are presented.