Cholangiocytes, the epithelial cells of the bile duct, are the origin of cholangiopathies which often necessitate liver transplants. Current progress in generating functional biliary organoids show potential for modelling cholangiopathies and validating therapeutic drugs. Organoids by groups Ogawa et al. and Sampaziotis et al. utilize soluble molecule induction, OP9 co-culture, and three-dimensional culture to achieve self-organizing tissues which express mature cholangiocyte markers and show cholangiocyte functionality. This thesis describes our efforts to establish a standard for functional PSC-derived bile duct tissues. By directing cell fate and patterning through external cues alone, we were able to produce CK19+ALB+ hepatoblast-like cells. These soluble molecule-induced cells also expressed EpCAM and CEBPA, suggesting the presence of early liver epithelial cells. However, inconsistent results and high levels of cell death with soluble molecule induction in early stages of differentiation prompted the development of a combinatory differentiation method which utilized multiple differentiation tools. We opted to combine transcription-factor triggered differentiation with soluble molecule-mediated differentiation to produce early biliary cells with the potential to develop into mature cholangiocytes. By combining genetic engineering through the activation of doxycycline-inducible GATA6 switch and microbead-mediated CXCR4 separation, we generated patterned tissues which expressed early biliary markers, CD146, CK19, and SOX9. In the future, three-dimensional cell culture and OP9 co-culture could improve our current results by facilitating 3D cellular self-organization and promoting NOTCH signaling for cholangiocyte maturation. Next steps for this research include optimizing media formulations, tracking gene expression over time, and testing the functionality of generated tissues.
- Engineering Self-Organizing Biliary Organoids from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
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