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Nanometric self-assembling peptide layers maintain adult hepatocyte phenotype in sandwich cultures

Jonathan Wu1, Núria Marí-Buyé23, Teresa Fernández Muiños2, Salvador Borrós3, Pietro Favia4 and Carlos E Semino125*

  • * Corresponding author: Carlos E Semino

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Bioengineering, Tissue Engineering Laboratory, IQS-Universidad Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Spain

3 Grup d'Enginyeria de Materials, IQS-Universidad Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Spain

4 Department of Chemistry, University of Bari, Italy

5 Translational Centre for Regenerative Medicine (TRM-Leipzig), Universität Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

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Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2010, 8:29  doi:10.1186/1477-3155-8-29

Published: 12 December 2010



Isolated hepatocytes removed from their microenvironment soon lose their hepatospecific functions when cultured. Normally hepatocytes are commonly maintained under limited culture medium supply as well as scaffold thickness. Thus, the cells are forced into metabolic stress that degenerate liver specific functions. This study aims to improve hepatospecific activity by creating a platform based on classical collagen sandwich cultures.


The modified sandwich cultures replace collagen with self-assembling peptide, RAD16-I, combined with functional peptide motifs such as the integrin-binding sequence RGD and the laminin receptor binding sequence YIG to create a cell-instructive scaffold. In this work, we show that a plasma-deposited coating can be used to obtain a peptide layer thickness in the nanometric range, which in combination with the incorporation of functional peptide motifs have a positive effect on the expression of adult hepatocyte markers including albumin, CYP3A2 and HNF4-alpha.


This study demonstrates the capacity of sandwich cultures with modified instructive self-assembling peptides to promote cell-matrix interaction and the importance of thinner scaffold layers to overcome mass transfer problems. We believe that this bioengineered platform improves the existing hepatocyte culture methods to be used for predictive toxicology and eventually for hepatic assist technologies and future artificial organs.