Finding a better human liver cell

Samsara-UC San Diego collaboration to focus on isolating and characterizing specialized human liver cells

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SAN DIEGO—A research team at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery has entered into a collaboration agreement with Samsara Sciences Inc. focused on the development of techniques and methods for isolating and characterizing specialized liver cells useful in new research, drug development and treatments of liver disease.
The UC San Diego team is led by Dr. Tatiana Kisseleva, assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Surgery, and consists of transplant surgeons directed by Dr. Alan Hemming, professor and chief of transplantation and hepatobiliary surgery in the Department of Surgery. Samsara is a wholly owned subsidiary of Organovo, a 3-D human tissue company that builds human tissues for use in drug discovery and therapeutic applications using a proprietary 3-D bioprinting platform.
Under the collaboration, Kisseleva and her team will develop and optimize protocols for the isolation of specialized human liver cells. These cells will be used in Kisseleva’s research at UC San Diego School of Medicine focusing on pathogenesis of liver fibrosis and the origin of fibrogenic myofibroblasts. The cells will also be thoroughly characterized by phenotype and function in a variety of laboratory and animal models, creating a comprehensive knowledge base about these liver cells.
“This is a unique arrangement,” says Kisseleva. “Samsara’s resources will allow us to generate high-quality cells to conduct translational research on liver injury, cirrhosis and cancer, while Samsara benefits from our expertise in liver cell isolation and characterization.”
Much of the recent research into liver cells has centered on hepatocytes, the predominant cell type that makes up liver tissue. Kisseleva’s team and Samsara will focus more comprehensively on hepatocytes and other supporting cells within the liver. Recent findings from Kisseleva’s group, Samsara researchers and others have noted the presence of supporting cells in culture that make a significant difference in the way liver cells behave in laboratory experiments.
“The most important aspect of isolating specialized cell types is developing the protocols and methods that enable them to be separated from other cell types and grown reproducibly,” Kisseleva explains. “It is also critical to characterize the cells comprehensively and have a good understanding of the markers they express and be confident in their origins.”
“We formed Samsara based on repeated observations that the functional performance of cell-based models is dependent to a large degree on the quality and phenotype of the input cells being used,” said Dr. Sharon Presnell, chief technology officer at Organovo and president of Samsara Sciences, in a media statement announcing the collaboration.
According to Kisseleva, “Organovo’s bioprinted tissues are built from multiple tissue-specific cell types, and through the Samsara-UC San Diego collaboration, Samsara is able to supply extremely high-quality, well-characterized cells in support of those 3D tissue models. These tissues can be used to model human biology, supporting translational efforts in toxicology, efficacy and disease modeling, as well as regenerative medicine. Samsara applies the optimized methods of cell isolation and characterization developed by the UC San Diego School of Medicine team to ensure that the cells that are used internally or provided externally are high-quality and well-characterized.”

Kisseleva was the principal investigator or co-principal investigator for seven NIH-awarded grants in 2014 and 2015 relating to liver diseases, according to information provided by The National Institutes of Health.
“We’re extremely excited to be working with Dr. Kisseleva,” said Presnell. “As a leading expert in liver cell biology, she is well positioned to develop isolation and characterization strategies that yield stellate and other support cells that are ideally suited for use in 3D-bioprinted tissue applications.”

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