INTRODUCTION: Hepatocyte cell transplantation can be life-saving in patients with acute liver failure (ALF); however, primary human hepatocyte transplantation is limited by the scarcity of donor hepatocytes. We investigated the effect of stem cell-derived, hepatocyte-like cells in an animal xenotransplant model of ALF. METHODS: Intraperitoneal d-galactosamine was used to develop a lethal model of ALF in the rat. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), human mesenchymal stem cells, and human iPSC combined with human endothelial cells (iPSC + EC) were differentiated into hepatocyte-like cells and transplanted into the spleens of athymic nude rats with ALF. RESULTS: A reproducible lethal model of ALF was achieved with nearly 90% death within 3 days. Compared with negative controls, rats transplanted with stem cell-derived, hepatocyte-like cells were associated with increased survival. Human albumin was detected in the rat serum 3 days after transplantation in more than one-half the animals transplanted with hepatocyte-like cells. Only animals transplanted with iPSC + EC-derived hepatocytes had serum human albumin at 14 days posttransplant. Transplanted hepatocyte-like cells homed to the injured rat liver, whereas the ECs were only detected in the spleen. CONCLUSION: Transplantation of stem cell-derived, hepatocyte-like cells improved survival with evidence of in vivo human albumin production. Combining ECs may prolong cell function after transplantation.
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