With the advent of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology, it is now feasible to generate iPSCs with a defined genotype or disease state. When coupled with direct differentiation of defined lineage, such as hepatic endoderm (HE). iPSC would revolutionise the way we study human liver biology and generate efficient “off the shelf” models of human liver disease.
Here we show the `proof of concept' that iPSC lines representing both male and female sexes and two ethnic origins can be differentiated to HE at efficiencies of between 70–90%, using a method mimicking a physiological condition. iPSC-derived HE exhibited hepatic morphology, and expressed the hepatic markers, Albumin and E-Cadherin as assessed by immuno-histochemistry. They also expressed alpha fetal protein (AFP), HNF4a, and a metabolic marker, Cyp7A1, demonstrating a definitive endodermal lineage differentiation. Furthermore, iPSC-derived hepatocytes produced and secreted the plasma proteins, fibrinogen, fibronectin, transthyretin (TTR) and AFP, an essential feature for functional HE. Additionally iPSC-derived HE supported both CYP1A2 and 3A4 metabolism, which is essential for drug and toxicology testing.
This work is first to demonstrate the efficient generation of hepatic endodermal lineage from human iPSC that exhibits key attributes of hepatocytes, and the potential application of iPSC-derived HE in studying human liver biology. In particular, iPSC from individuals representing highly polymorphic variants in metabolic genes and different ethnic groups will provide pharmaceutical development and toxicology studies a unique opportunity to revolutionise predictive drug toxicology assays and allow the creation of in vitro hepatic disease models.