Although hepatic cell transplantation (CT) holds the promise of bridging patients with end-stage chronic liver failure to whole liver transplantation, suitable cell populations are under debate. In addition to hepatic cells, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are being considered as alternative cell sources for initial clinical cell work. Fetal liver (FL) tissue contains potential progenitors for all these cell lineages. Based on the collagenase incubation of tissue fragments, traditional isolation techniques yield only a fraction of the number of available cells. We report a 5-step method in which a portal vein in situ perfusion technique is used for tissue from the late second trimester. This method results in the high viabilities known for adult liver vascular perfusion, addresses the low cell yields of conventional digestion methods, and reduces the exposure of the tissue to collagenase 4-fold. We used donated tissue from gestational weeks 18 to 22, which yielded 1.8 ± 0.7 × 10 9 cells with an average viability of 78%. Because HSC transplantation and MSC transplantation are of interest for the treatment of hepatic failure, we phenotypically confirmed that in addition to hepatic progenitors, the resulting cell preparation contained cells expressing typical MSC and HSC markers. The percentage of FL cells expressing proliferation markers was 45 times greater than the percentage of adult hepatocytes expressing these markers and was comparable to the percentage of immortalized HepG2 liver hepatocellular carcinoma cells; this indicated the strong proliferative capacity of fetal cells. We report a case of human FL CT with the described liver cell population for clinical end-stage chronic liver failure. The patient's Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score improved from 15 to 10 within the first 18 months of observation. In conclusion, this human FL cell isolation protocol may be of interest for further clinical translation work on the development of liver cell-based therapies.
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