Hepatocyte organoids have an in vivo-like cell morphology and maintain cell viability and function in vitro. On the other hand, the oxygen supply to hepatocytes is sometimes limited in the core of organoids that are more than 100 μm in thickness. In this study, we designed and examined a new bioreactor using sheet-shaped organoids (organoid-sheets) in which the thickness was controlled to prevent hepatocyte death in the core of organoid due to limitation of oxygen supply. The cell culture space consisted of stacked organoid formation spaces and medium flow channels. Each space was separated by flat porous polycarbonate membranes, and the organoid thickness was controlled at 100 μm with a stainless steel spacer. Freshly isolated hepatocytes (7.0 × 107) were immobilized in the bioreactor, yielding a cell density of 4.5 × 107 cells/cm3-bioreactor. Of the five flow rates tested (1.0, 5.0, 10, 20, and 50 mL/min), the bioreactor with the 10 mL/min had the highest ammonia removal and albumin secretion activities for at least 14 days. In conclusion, a new bioreactor controlling organoid thickness is useful for achieving high cell density culture and the maintenance of hepatocyte function to avoid cell death in the core of the organoids due to limitation of oxygen supply. The bioreactor may be useful for the development of various applications using cultured hepatocytes.
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