Despite considerable efforts in modeling liver disease in vitro, it remains difficult to recapitulate the pathogenesis of the advanced phases of non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) with inflammation and fibrosis. Here, a liver‐on‐a‐chip platform with bioengineered multicellular liver microtissues is developed, composed of four major types of liver cells (hepatocytes, endothelial cells, Kupffer cells, and stellate cells) to implement a human hepatic fibrosis model driven by NAFLD: i) lipid accumulation in hepatocytes (steatosis), ii) neovascularization by endothelial cells, iii) inflammation by activated Kupffer cells (steatohepatitis), and iv) extracellular matrix deposition by activated stellate cells (fibrosis). In this model, the presence of stellate cells in the liver‐on‐a‐chip model with fat supplementation showed elevated inflammatory responses and fibrosis marker up‐regulation. Compared to transforming growth factor‐beta‐induced hepatic fibrosis models, this model includes the native pathological and chronological steps of NAFLD which shows i) higher fibrotic phenotypes, ii) increased expression of fibrosis markers, and iii) efficient drug transport and metabolism. Taken together, the proposed platform will enable a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying fibrosis progression in NAFLD as well as the identification of new drugs for the different stages of NAFLD.more » « less
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- National Science Foundation
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Graca Almeida-Porada, MD3 1Fetal Research and Therapy Program, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Winston Salem, NC 2Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 3Fetal Research and Therapy Program, Wake Forest Institute For Regenerative Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC Clinical trials employing AAV vectors for hemophilia A have been hindered by unanticipated immunological and/or inflammatory responses in some of the patients. Also, these trials have often yielded lower levels of transgene expression than were expected based upon preclinical studies, highlighting the poor correlation between the transduction efficiency observed in traditional 2D cultures of primary cells in vitro, and that observed in those same cell types in vivo. It has been also recognized that there are marked species-speciﬁc differences in AAV-vector tropism, raising the critical question of the accuracy with which various animal models will likely predict tropism/vector transduction efficiency, and eventual treatment success in humans. Human liver tissue equivalents (hLTEs) are comprised of major cell types in the liver in physiologically relevant frequencies and possess the ability to recapitulate the biology and function of native human liver. Here, we hypothesize that hLTEs can be used as a better model to predict the efficacy and safety of AAV gene therapy in humans. We fabricated hLTEs using 75% hepatocytes, 10% stellate cells, 10% Kupffer cells, and 5% liver sinusoid-derived endothelial cells in 96-well Elplasia plates with 79 microwells per well. hLTEs were transduced at an MOI of 105vg/cell, on the day of fabrication, with the clinically relevant serotypes AAV5 (hLTE-5) or AAV3b (hLTE-3b), both encoding a GFP reporter. 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TEM analysis revealed that all groups exhibited microvilli and bile-canaliculus-like structures, demonstrating the formation of a rudimentary biliary system and, more importantly, proving that hLTEs resemble native liver structure. Incucyte® imaging showed that AAV5 and AAV3b transduction impaired formation of hLTEs (57.57 ± 2.42 and 24.57 ± 4.01 spheroids/well, respectively) in comparison with hLTE(-) (74.86 ± 3.8 spheroids/well). Quantification of GFP expression demonstrated that AAV5 yielded the most efficient transduction of hLTEs (fold change in GFP expression compared to control: 2.73 ± 0.09 and 1.19 ± 0.03 for hLTE-5 and hLTE-3b, respectively). Chromogenic assays showed decreased urea production in cell culture supernatants of AAV transduced groups compared to the non-transduced hLTEs on days 6 and 10 of culture, demonstrating decreased hepatocyte functionality. However, ALT and AST levels were similar in all groups. 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