There are a variety of end-point assays and techniques available to monitor hepatic cell cultures and study toxicity within in vitro models. These commonly focus on one aspect of cell metabolism and are often destructive to cells. Impedance-based cellular assays (IBCAs) assess biological functions of cell populations in real-time by measuring electrical impedance, which is the resistance to alternating current caused by the dielectric properties of proliferating of cells. While the uses of IBCA have been widely reported for a number of tissues, specific uses in the study of hepatic cell cultures have not been reported to date. IBCA monitors cellular behaviour throughout experimentation non-invasively without labelling or damage to cell cultures. The data extrapolated from IBCA can be correlated to biological events happening within the cell and therefore may inform drug toxicity studies or other applications within hepatic research. Because tight junctions comprise the blood/biliary barrier in hepatocytes, there are major consequences when these junctions are disrupted, as many pathologies centre around the bile canaliculi and flow of bile out of the liver. The application of IBCA in hepatology provides a unique opportunity to assess cellular polarity and patency of tight junctions, vital to maintaining normal hepatic function. Here, we describe how IBCAs have been applied to measuring the effect of viral infection, drug toxicity/IC50, cholangiopathies, cancer metastasis and monitoring of the gut-liver axis. We also highlight key areas of research where IBCAs could be used in future applications within the field of hepatology.
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