The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a non-cellular component of tissues and organs. It is mainly composed of structural elements (proteoglycans collagens, elastin) and cell adhesion proteins such as fibronectin and laminins. The ECM forms a complex structure with physical properties (elasticity, tensile and compression strength), which provides physical support for cells and influences cell responses. (Frantz, Stewart and Weaver, 2010).
The liver contains little ECM, which is present in the regions near the portal vein and the spaces of Disse. A healthy liver matrix contains mainly type I and III collagens, with a slight predominance of type III collagen (Rojkind, Giambrone and Biempica, 1979). The main types of non-collagenous ECM proteins in the liver are fibronectin, laminins, proteoglycans and elastin. Hyaluronic acid, a carbohydrate polymer, is also found (Gressner and Bachem, 1990).
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer and the second most common cause of death by cancer. The risk factors are non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH) or alcoholic steatosis (ASH). Indeed, both of them can progress to cirrhosis and HCC if left untreated.
In NASH and ASH, the ECM component plays an important role through the development of fibrosis following chronic liver damage. It is characterized by accumulation of fibrillar ECM, which leads to liver failure, portal hypertension with an increased risk of cancer. Several liver cell types are involved in this mechanism, which induces hepatocyte injury, cell death, K-cell activation cell death, activation of Küpffer cells (KCs), activation of hepatic star cells (HSCs) and chronic inflammation (Trautwein et al., 2015).
ECM is an important element in health and disease, especially for liver. Indeed it’s impossible to improve success rates in drug discovery testing without the right environment for in vitro cell culture. It’s why HCS Pharma develops innovative BIOMIMESYS® technology, a cell culture microenvironment reproducing all aspects of human tissues, including matrix architecture, cellular organization, cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. The specific product BIOMIMESYS® Liver is dedicated to the culture of liver cells such as hepatocytes.
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