Drug-induced liver injury is a major cause of drug development failures and postmarket withdrawals. In vitro models that incorporate primary hepatocytes have been shown to be more predictive than model systems which rely on liver microsomes or hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines. Methods to phenotypically stabilize primary hepatocytes ex vivo often rely on mimicry of hepatic microenvironmental cues such as cell-cell interactions and cell-matrix interactions. In this work, we sought to incorporate phenotypically stable hepatocytes into three-dimensional (3D) microtissues, which, in turn, could be deployed in drug-screening platforms such as multiwell plates and diverse organ-on-a-chip devices. We first utilize micropatterning on collagen I to specify cell-cell interactions in two-dimensions, followed by collagenase digestion to produce well-controlled aggregates for 3D encapsulation in polyethylene glycol (PEG) diacrylate. Using this approach, we examined the influence of homotypic hepatocyte interactions and composition of the encapsulating hydrogel, and achieved the maintenance of liver-specific function for over 50 days. Optimally preaggregated structures were subsequently encapsulated using a microfluidic droplet-generator to produce 3D microtissues. Interactions of engineered hepatic microtissues with drugs was characterized by flow cytometry, and yielded both induction of P450 enzymes in response to prototypic small molecules and drug-drug interactions that give rise to hepatotoxicity. Collectively, this study establishes a pipeline for the manufacturing of 3D hepatic microtissues that exhibit stabilized liver-specific functions and can be incorporated into a wide array of emerging drug development platforms.
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