A technique has been developed by the authors that allows hepatocyte attachment on collagen-coated microcarriers resulting in prolonged hepatocyte viability and function both in vivo and in vitro. Rat hepatocytes were obtained by portal vein collagenase perfusion. Intraperitoneally transplanted microcarrier-attached normal hepatocytes into congeneic Gunn rats were functioning 3-4 weeks later, as shown by the presence and persistence of conjugated bilirubin in recipient bile, sustained decrease in serum bilirubin, uptake of Tc99m-DESIDA, and morpholigic criteria. Intraperitoneal transplantation of normal microcarrier-attached hepatocytes into genetically albumin deficient rats (NAR) resulted in marked decrease in plasma albumin levels (6 days without and 21 days with Cyclosporin A immunosuppression). Microcarrier-attached hepatocytes transplanted after 2 weeks of storage at -80 C into congeneic Gunn rats were viable and functional as assessed by criteria outlined above. An extracorporeal liver perfusion system was developed using the microcarrier-attached hepatocytes that was capable of synthesizing and conjugating bilirubin and synthesizing liver-specific proteins.
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