Steatotic liver: a suitable source for the isolation of hepatic progenitor cells


M. José Gómez-Lechón

Unidad de Hepatología Experimental, Centro de Investigación, Hospital La Fe

Avda de Campanar 21, 46009-Valencia, Spain

Tel: +34 96 1973048

Fax: +34 96 1973018




Alternative and/or complementary sources of cells such as hepatic progenitor cells (HPC) are under investigation for hepatic cell therapy purposes. Steatotic livers are those most commonly rejected for clinical transplantation and are also unsuitable for good quality hepatocyte isolation.


Taken together these two facts, our aim was to investigate whether they could represent a suitable source for the isolation of progenitor cells.


Rats fed for 7 weeks with methionine–choline deficient diets showing proved steatotic signs (i.e. increase in hepatic lipids; macrovesicular steatosis) and steatotic and normal human liver samples were used to study the expression of HPC markers and to isolate these cells.


In the liver of the steatotic rats there was a significant increase in HPC (known as oval cells in rodents) markers such as Thy-1, epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) and OV-6 (2-, 3- and 5-fold increase respectively). Additionally, there was an increase in the yield of isolated oval cells compared to control rats. Similarly, studies using human livers clearly confirmed an increase in the expression of HPC markers in the steatotic tissue and a significant rise in the number of isolated progenitor cells (EpCAM+, Thy-1+, OV-6+) (10, 12 and 11.6 × 104 cells/g of tissue respectively).


These data suggest that steatotic livers, discarded for orthotopic liver transplantation and hepatocyte isolation, could be a suitable source for large scale isolation of HPC which might be potential candidates in liver cell therapy.