Poly (2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (HEMA) has been used as a clinical material, in the form of a soft hydrogel, for various surgical procedures, including endovascular surgery of liver. It is a clear liquid compound and, as a soft, flexible, water-absorbing material, has been used to make soft contact lenses from small, concave, spinning molds. Primary rat hepatocyte spheroids were created on a poly-HEMA-coated surface with the intention of inducing hepatic tissue formation and improving liver functions. We investigated spheroid formation of primary adult rat hepatocyte cells and characterized hepatic-specific functions under the special influence of fetal calf serum (FCS) and nonparencymal cells (NPC) up to six days in different culture systems (e.g., hepatocytes + FCS, hepatocytes – FCS, NPC + FCS, NPC – FCS, co-culture + FCS, co-culture – FCS) in both the spheroid model and sandwich model. Immunohistologically, we detected gap junctions, Ito cell/Kupffer cells, sinusoidal endothelial cells and an extracellular matrix in the spheroid model. FCS has no positive effect in the sandwich model, but has a negative effect in the spheroid model on albumin production, and no influence in urea production in either model. We found more cell viability in smaller diameter spheroids than larger ones by using the apoptosis test. Furthermore, there is no positive influence of the serum or NPC on spheroid formation, suggesting that it may only depend on the physical condition of the culture system. Since the sandwich culture has been considered a “gold standard” in vitro
culture model, the hepatocyte spheroids generated on the poly-HEMA-coated surface were compared with those in the sandwich model. Major liver-specific functions, such as albumin secretion and urea synthesis, were evaluated in both the spheroid and sandwich model. The synthesis performance in the spheroid compared to the sandwich culture increases approximately by a factor of 1.5. Disintegration of plasma membranes
in both models was measured by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
release in both models. Additionally, diazepam
was used as a substrate in drug metabolism
studies to characterize the differences in the biotransformation potential with metabolite profiles in both models. It showed that the diazepam metabolism activities in the spheroid model is about 10-fold lower than the sandwich model. The poly-HEMA-based hepatocyte spheroid is a promising new platform towards hepatic tissue engineering leading to in vitro
hepatic tissue formation.