The need for liver transplantation is increasing every year due to the increase in patients with liver cancer and end-stage liver disease (ESLD) from multiple etiologies including viral hepatitis (HBV, HDV and HCV) and NASH. However, transplantable liver tissue is not readily available, making cell therapy a potential alternative or bridge to liver transplantation. Liver cells (hepatocytes) are a crucial component for cell therapy in patients with ESLD. However, hepatocytes lose many features of their advanced differentiation shortly after removal from the tissue to standard culture conditions. Engineered artificial human liver tissues that maintain the differentiation state of hepatocytes in culture would be of great benefit for patients with ESLD.
Our tissue engineering projects are aimed at developing a 3-dimensional liver tissue that sustains liver cell phenotypes in long term culture with capability to be transplanted into the liver and sustain liver function until a suitable liver tissue is available for transplantation. Our engineered tissues are also ideal for studying human-specific drug metabolism and toxicity, as well as hepatitis virus infections in a more three-dimensional environment.
We utilize bioengineering methods as well as 3-D printing and material science advances in collaboration with groups from chemical engineering and bioengineering to generate such tissues and characterize their function both in vitro and in vivo.