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Two-step perfusion is considered the gold standard method for isolating hepatocytes from human liver tissue. As perfusion may require a large tissue specimen, which is encapsulated and has accessible vessels for cannulation, only a limited number of tissue samples may be suitable. Therefore, the aim of this work was to develop an alternative method to isolate hepatocytes from non-encapsulated and small samples of human liver tissue. Healthy tissue from 44 human liver resections were graded for steatosis and tissue weights between 7.8 and 600 g were used for hepatocyte isolations. Tissue was diced and underwent a two-step digestion (EDTA and collagenase). Red cell lysis buffer was used to prevent red blood cell contamination and toxicity. Isolated hepatocyte viability was determined by trypan blue exclusion. Western blot and biochemical analyses were undertaken to ascertain cellular phenotype and function. Liver tissue that weighed ≥50 g yielded significantly higher (P < 0.01) cell viability than tissue <50 g. Viable cells secreted urea and displayed the phenotypic hepatocyte markers albumin and cytochrome P450. Presence of steatosis in liver tissue or intra-hepatocellular triglyceride content had no effect on cell viability. This methodology allows for the isolation of viable primary human hepatocytes from small amounts of "healthy" resected liver tissue which are not suitable for perfusion. This work provides the opportunity to increase the utilisation of resection surplus tissue, and may ultimately lead to an increased number of in vitro cellular studies being undertaken using the gold-standard model of human primary hepatocytes.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Tissue Bank

Publication Date





597 - 604


Hepatocyte, Human, Isolation, Liver, Adult, Aged, Albumins, Cell Separation, Cell Survival, Cells, Cultured, Collagenases, Female, Hepatocytes, Humans, Liver, Male, Middle Aged