Prolonged engraftment of transplanted hepatocytes in the liver by transient pro-survival factor supplementation usingex vivomRNA transfection

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Cell transplantation therapy needs engraftment efficiency improvement of transplanted cells to the host tissues. Ex vivo transfection of a pro-survival gene to transplanted cells is a possible solution; however prolonged expression and/or genomic integration of the gene can be cancer promoting. To supply pro-survival protein only when it is needed, we used mRNA transfection, which exhibits transient protein expression profiles without the risk of genomic integration. Ex vivo transfection of mRNA encoding Bcl-2, a pro-survival factor, led to enhanced hepatocyte engraftment in both of normal and diseased mouse liver, effectively supporting liver function in a model of chronic hepatitis. The transplanted hepatocytes maintained their viability and function in the liver for at least one month, though Bcl-2 expression from mRNA was sustained for just a few days. Mechanism analyses suggest that Bcl-2 inhibits Kupffer cell-mediated hepatocyte clearance, which occurs within 2days after transplantation. Within 2days, hepatocytes migrated to the liver parenchyma, presumably a suitable place for the hepatocytes to survive without Bcl-2 expression. Thus, the duration of Bcl-2 expression from mRNA was sufficient to achieve prolonged engraftment. Ex vivo mRNA transfection allows supply of pro-survival factors to transplanted cells with minimal safety concerns accompanying prolonged expression, providing an effective platform to improve engraftment efficiency in cell transplantation therapy.HIGHLIGHTSCell transplantation therapy needs engraftment efficiency improvement.Pro-survival mRNA transfection is a safe option to improve engraftment efficiency.Ex vivo Bcl-2 mRNA transfection to hepatocytes improved their engraftment to liver.Transient Bcl-2 expression from mRNA allowed long-term hepatocyte engraftment.Bcl-2-mRNA-transfected hepatocytes improved liver function in mice with hepatitis.

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