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A Bile Duct-on-a-Chip with Organ-Level Functions

By Yu Du, Gauri Khandekar, Jessica Llewellyn, William Polacheck, Christopher S Chen, Rebecca G Wells

Posted 30 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/594291 (published DOI: 10.1002/hep.30918)

Chronic cholestatic liver diseases such as primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) are frequently associated with damage to the barrier function of the biliary epithelium, but barrier function is difficult to study in vivo and has not been recapitulated in vitro. Here we report the development of a bile duct-on-a-chip that phenocopies not only the tubular architecture of the bile duct in three dimensions, but also its barrier functions. We demonstrated that mouse cholangiocytes in the channel of the device became polarized and formed mature tight junctions, and that the permeability of the cholangiocyte monolayer was comparable to that measured ex vivo for the rat bile duct. Permeability decreased significantly when cells formed a compacted monolayer with cell densities comparable to that seen in vivo. This device enabled independent access to the apical and basolateral surfaces of the cholangiocyte channel, allowing proof-of-concept toxicity studies with the biliary toxin biliatresone and the bile acid glycochenodeoxycholic acid. The cholangiocyte basolateral side was more vulnerable than the apical side to treatment with either agent, suggesting a protective adaptation of the apical surface that is normally exposed to bile. Further studies revealed a protective role of the cholangiocyte apical glycocalyx, wherein disruption of the glycocalyx with neuraminidase increased the permeability of the cholangiocyte monolayer after treatment with glycochenodeoxycholic acid. Conclusion: This bile duct-on-a-chip captured essential features of a simplified bile duct in structure and organ-level functions and represents a novel in vitro platform to study the pathophysiology of the bile duct using cholangiocytes from a variety of sources.

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