Current methods of cryopreservation of hepatocytes in single cell suspensions result in low overall yields of hepatocytes, demonstrating long-term preservation of hepatocellular functions. A novel culture method has recently been developed to culture liver cells in a sandwich configuration of collagen layers in order to stabilize the phenotypic expression of these cells in vitro (J. C. Y. Dunn, M. L. Yarmush, H. G. Koebe, and R. G. Tompkins, FASEB J. 3, 174, 1989). Using this culture system, rat hepatocytes were frozen with 15% ( v v) Me2SO to -70 °C, and stored at ~ -100 °C. Following rapid thawing, long-term function was assessed by measuring albumin secretion in culture for 7-14 days postfreezing. Comparison was made with cryopreservation of liver cells in single cell suspensions. Cryopreservation of liver cells in suspension resulted in only a 2% yield of cells which could be successfully cultured; albumin secretion rates in these cultured cells over 48 hr were 26-30% of secretion rates for nonfrozen hepatocytes. Freezing cultured liver cells in the sandwich configuration after 3,7, and 11 days in culture maintained 0, 26, and 19% of the secretion rates of nonfrozen hepatocytes, respectively. Morphology of the cryopreserved cells appeared grossly similar to cells without freezing; however, this morphological result was patchy and represented ~30% of the cells in culture. These results represent the first demonstration of any quantitative long-term preservation of hepatocellular function by cryopreservation, suggesting that cultured hepatocytes can survive freezing and maintain function.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This researchw as supportedb y a grant from The Whitaker Foundation,M echanicsburg,P ennsylvania.