Detection and Characterization of Hepatic Engraftment of Embryonic Stem Derived Cells by Fluorescent Stereomicroscopy

Background: Embryonic stem (ES) cells have been investigated as a potential replacement therapy for failed organs, such as the liver. However, detection of hepatic engraftment from candidate stem cells has been difficult due to low engraftment efficiency. Previous detection methods required that the graft be processed by molecular and/or immunohistochemical techniques, limiting further functional studies. This study evaluated the use of three-dimensional fluorescent stereomicroscopy for gross detection of ES cell derived hepatic engraftment.

Material and Methods: Murine ES cells expressing the enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) underwent directed endodermal lineage differentiation. Three days after two thirds partial hepatectomy, cells were injected into the liver parenchyma, and livers were harvested at 10 to 20 d and examined by fluorescence stereomicroscopy with a GFP2 long pass filter (100447084; Leica Microsystems, Wetzlar, Germany). The sensitivity and reliability of the test was evaluated using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (q-PCR) to assay for the presence of EGFP mRNA in the tissue.

Results: Fluorescent microscopy detected EGFP-positive cells engrafted with normal histology in 5 of 11 specimens. EGFP mRNA was confirmed in all five specimens by q-PCR. Only one of the 11 specimens was negative by fluorescence stereomicroscopy and positive by q-PCR, P < 0.02, Fisher’s exact test.

Conclusion: Utilization of three-dimensional stereomicroscopy with a GFP2 long pass filter is a powerful and fast screening tool for GFP-ES derived hepatic engraftment.

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