Why should you be using primary hepatocytes?

Why should you be using primary hepatocytes?

Choosing the right in vitro model for biomedical research may seem overwhelming, especially when many options are available. Primary human hepatocytes and immortalised cell lines such as HepG2 and HepaRG are among the most widely used in vitro models in pharmacological and toxicological studies.

The ease of maintaining them in culture, their high proliferation potential, and the relatively low cost are powerful reasons for tipping the balance towards using cell lines. But is it the best choice?


Primary hepatocytes offer unique functionalities

Despite their easy handling and standardised culture conditions, hepatoma cell lines exhibit poor expression of some functions of the human liver. The activities of certain drug-metabolizing enzymes and transporters (DMET) are low in comparison with primary human hepatocytes. Relying on predictions derived from hepatic cell line studies may result in misidentifying cell toxicity due to reactive metabolites and overestimating the toxicity of highly metabolised parent drugs.

Primary human hepatocytes remain differentiated and sustain the major drug-metabolizing enzyme activities in culture for a relatively long period; they represent a unique in vitro system and serve as a “gold standard” for drug metabolism and toxicity studies.

The loss of a differentiated phenotype, a significant limitation of primary hepatocytes, is overcome by culturing them in the sandwich culture model or using 3D approaches. This promotes polarised cell surface domains and better stabilises hepatocyte functionality, particularly transport systems, than monolayer cultures.

Limited availability is not a problem anymore

Limited availability of the human liver has been another matter of concern when using primary hepatocytes. At BeCytes, we help researchers develop sophisticated cellular models that replicate the complex microenvironment of the human body by offering exceptional primary liver cells. Limited availability is not a problem anymore; find fresh and cryopreserved human hepatocytes and non-parenchymal cells alone or as a mix.

All cell types are produced under QC standards and supplied with:

  • Demographic and clinical donor profiles
  • Viability and morphology assessment
  • Specific certificate of analysis with culture and maintenance protocols
  • Specific thawing media for every cell type.

Don’t hesitate to contact. BeCytes scientific experts will advise you to obtain the liver cells that best suit the conditions of your project.

Empower your research with us!






Gómez-Lechón MJ, Tolosa L, Conde I, Donato MT. Competency of different cell models to predict human hepatotoxic drugs. Expert Opinion on Drug Metabolism & Toxicology. 2014;10(11):1553-1568. doi:10.1517/17425255.2014.967680

Guo L, Dial S, Shi L, et al. Similarities and Differences in the Expression of Drug-Metabolizing Enzymes between Human Hepatic Cell Lines and Primary Human Hepatocytes. Drug Metab Dispos. 2011;39(3):528-538. doi:10.1124/dmd.110.035873