The FRAME Alternatives Laboratory is very pleased to welcome back Dr Fatima Abukunna for a six-month post doc position to continue her liver research.
Fatima came to Nottingham from Northern Sudan to carry out her PhD in the FRAME laboratory under the guidance of lab director Dr Andrew Bennett. Her PhD research focused on isolating hepatic progenitor cells (HPC) from human liver, culturing them and treating them to differentiate into mature liver cells (hepatocytes). During this research, they successfully managed to differentiate the HPCs to form hepatocyte-like cells in hypoxia chambers.
FRAME is funding the placement to allow Fatima to progress the liver model research further and look at developing a 3D culture scaffold to grow cells on. The HPCs do not grow well on standard tissue culture plates alone, however, during the research, the cells were successfully grown on decellularized human liver matrix. The aim now is to work towards producing a synthetic matrix which the HPCs will successfully grow on. If this can be developed, the next stage will be finding a way to switch the HPCs ‘on’ to encourage them to differentiate into hepatocytes.
Quality models of the human liver are of particular interest to those looking at the toxicity of drugs and chemicals. A good model replicates the physiological environment of the liver and supports the growth and differentiation of liver-like cells. Developing a model that supports cells that maintain viability and liver functionality has proved challenging. This research will add to the growing pool of knowledge around the development of in-vitro liver models which may help replace the use of animals in drug and chemical toxicity testing.