Isolation and expansion of human pluripotent stem cell-derived hepatic progenitor cells by growth factor defined serum-free culture conditions

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Limited growth potential, narrow ranges of sources, and difference in variability and functions from batch to batch of primary hepatocytes cause a problem for predicting drug-induced hepatotoxicity during drug development. Human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived hepatocyte-like cells in vitro are expected as a tool for predicting drug-induced hepatotoxicity. Several studies have already reported efficient methods for differentiating hPSCs into hepatocyte-like cells, however its differentiation process is time-consuming, labor-intensive, cost-intensive, and unstable. In order to solve this problem, expansion culture for hPSC-derived hepatic progenitor cells, including hepatic stem cells and hepatoblasts which can self-renewal and differentiate into hepatocytes should be valuable as a source of hepatocytes. However, the mechanisms of the expansion of hPSC-derived hepatic progenitor cells are not yet fully understood. In this study, to isolate hPSC-derived hepatic progenitor cells, we tried to develop serum-free growth factor defined culture conditions using defined components. Our culture conditions were able to isolate and grow hPSC-derived hepatic progenitor cells which could differentiate into hepatocyte-like cells through hepatoblast-like cells. We have confirmed that the hepatocyte-like cells prepared by our methods were able to increase gene expression of cytochrome P450 enzymes upon encountering rifampicin, phenobarbital, or omeprazole. The isolation and expansion of hPSC-derived hepatic progenitor cells in defined culture conditions should have advantages in terms of detecting accurate effects of exogenous factors on hepatic lineage differentiation, understanding mechanisms underlying self-renewal ability of hepatic progenitor cells, and stably supplying functional hepatic cells.

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