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A Micropatterned Hepatocyte Coculture Model for Assessment of Liver Toxicity Using High-Content Imaging Analysis.

The current landscape of in vitro models used to identify drug- or chemical induced hepatotoxicity relies heavily on cell culture models consisting of HepG2, induced pluripotent stem cell–derived, or primary hepatocytes. While these in vitro models offer powerful approaches for predicting toxicity, each system has challenges, including variable metabolic capacity, brief ex vivo life span in culture, and adoption with standard automated microscopy high-content screening (HCS) systems to measure reproducibility data at the single-cell level. In this report we introduce a novel primary hepatocyte coculture model, HepatoPacTM, as an alternative to current model systems for evaluation of in vitro hepatotoxicity in 96-well microtiter plate format examined by HCS. The coculture model consists of primary hepatocytes that are micropatterned to form a discrete microarchitecture or ''hepatocyte islands'' that are surrounded by supporting fibroblasts resulting in long-term viability and metabolic function of primary hepatocytes. Using multiple HCS image capture and image analysis strategies, we established methods to interrogate various morphometric parameters, such as size, shape, and intensity, at the island or single-cell level. We applied these approaches to identify subpopulations of both fibroblasts and hepatocytes that exhibited alterations in nuclear parameters, cell permeability, mitochondria function, and apoptosis using known reference control compounds and an eight-point dose curve. Subpopulation analysis with additional bioprobe sets can provide a powerful means of addressing differential cell and tissue susceptibilities during compound profiling. Our data show that the HepatoPac is amendable for HCS imaging applications and provides a unique approach for studying hepatotoxicity over prolonged periods of time.


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