We have developed a new co-culture system consisting of adhesive bone marrow cells (A-BMCs), non-adhesive bone marrow cells (NA-BMCs) and hepatocytes with improved hepatocyte immobilization efficiency and better maintenance of liver specific functions. The composition of the inoculated cells affected the morphology of hepatocytes. Spheroids formed spontaneously when rat hepatocytes were co-cultured with bone marrow cells (BMCs). However, the addition of NA-BMCs to existing hepatocyte monolayers did not change their morphologies to spheroids. On the other hand, NA-BMCs dramatically increased hepatocyte immobilization efficiency. Hepatocytes co-cultured with either NA-BMCs or A-BMCs maintained their albumin production activities significantly better than hepatocyte culture alone. Interestingly, the two fractions of BMCs appear to have combination effects on hepatocytes to maintain albumin production activity. We conclude that co-culture of hepatocytes and BMCs is an effective strategy to enhance hepatocyte immobilization efficiency and functions in vitro.
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