3D in vitro models of liver fibrosis
Animal testing is still the most popular preclinical assessment model for liver fibrosis. To develop efficient anti-fibrotic therapies, robust and representative in vitro models are urgently needed. The most widely used in vitro fibrosis model is the culture-induced activation of primary rodent hepatic stellate cells. While these cultures have contributed greatly to the current understanding of hepatic stellate cell activation, they seem to be inadequate to cover the complexity of this regenerative response. This review summarizes recent progress towards the development of 3D culture models of liver fibrosis. Thus far, only a few hepatic culture systems have successfully implemented hepatic stellate cells (or other non-parenchymal cells) into hepatocyte cultures. Recent advances in bioprinting, spheroid- and precision-cut liver slice cultures and the use of microfluidic bioreactors will surely lead to valid 3D in vitro models of liver fibrosis in the near future.