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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2010, Article ID 236147, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/236147
Review Article

Three-Dimensional Culture of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Derived Hepatic Endoderm and Its Role in Bioartificial Liver Construction

Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, 49 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh, Scotland EH16 4SB, UK

Received 7 September 2009; Accepted 3 December 2009

Academic Editor: James A. Ross

Copyright © 2010 Ruchi Sharma et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The liver carries out a range of functions essential for bodily homeostasis. The impairment of liver functions has serious implications and is responsible for high rates of patient morbidity and mortality. Presently, liver transplantation remains the only effective treatment, but donor availability is a major limitation. Therefore, artificial and bioartificial liver devices have been developed to bridge patients to liver transplantation. Existing support devices improve hepatic encephalopathy to a certain extent; however their usage is associated with side effects. The major hindrance in the development of bioartificial liver devices and cellular therapies is the limited availability of human hepatocytes. Moreover, primary hepatocytes are difficult to maintain and lose hepatic identity and function over time even with sophisticated tissue culture media. To overcome this limitation, renewable cell sources are being explored. Human embryonic stem cells are one such cellular resource and have been shown to generate a reliable and reproducible supply of human hepatic endoderm. Therefore, the use of human embryonic stem cell-derived hepatic endoderm in combination with tissue engineering has the potential to pave the way for the development of novel bioartificial liver devices and predictive drug toxicity assays.