Cell and Tissue Therapy Center

Bruxelles Woluwe

The Cell and Tissue Therapy Center of the University Clinics UCL Saint-Luc is composed of 4 independently operating units. The Center, created in 2011, is housed in the Rosalind Franklin building and is equipped with 260 mof clean rooms, 10 laminar flows, 10 incubators, 8 centrifuges, 21 -80°C freezers and 35 nitrogen tanks containing human cells and tissues. The Center's mission is to produce high-quality sterile tissue and/or cellular grafts for patient transplantation. The grafts are produced from remnant tissues from various sources and are subject to different legislations and constraints. 

The Hepatic Cell Therapy Unit is coordinated by Prof. E. Sokal and is specialized in the isolation, culture and cryopreservation of different cell types from the parenchymal and non-parenchymal fraction of the human liver. The unit is composed of the Hepatocytes and Hepatic Stem Cells Bank and carries out the following activities:

  • The reception and conservation of hepatic tissue
  • The isolation, cryopreservation and delivery of hepatocytes
  • The large scale production of hepatic progenitors
  • Hepatic cell therapy of patients with metabolic liver disorders

Hepatocytes are polarized, polygonal epithelial cells of 25-40 µm arranged in plates flanking the liver sinusoids. They fulfill most of the vital functions of the liver and represent 60% of the liver cells and 80% of the total liver volume. The hepatic progenitor cells, identified and characterized for the first time by the team of Prof. Sokal are proliferating cells with a fibroblastic morphology and a hepato-mesenchymal phenotype. These cells are currently undergoing clinical development for the treatment of metabolic diseases of the liver.

Recently, the Center has also developed expertise in the isolation, expansion and cryopreservation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). Under physiologic conditions, HSCs are quiescent adipogenic, star-shaped cells found in the space of Disse. They store up to 80% of our total body retinoids, under the form of retinyl palmitate, in their cytoplasmid lipid droplets and exert many important functions such as the synthesis of and remodeling of extracellular matrix, the secretion of lipoproteins, growth factors and cytokines, the presentation of antigens and the regulation of the sinusoidal blood flow.

In response to chronic liver injury however, HSCs undergo a process of activation during which they transform into myofibroblasts, the most downstream cellular effectors of liver fibrosis. The activation of HSCs is thus a key event during fibrogenesis and activated HSCs are considered the main target for the development of anti-fibrotic therapies. 

For more information on the availability of hepatic cell populations for research and development purposes, please inquire directly to Ms. C. Vanhoorne (charlotte.vanhoorne@uclouvain.be) (hepatocytes) or Mr. A. El Taghdouini (adil.eltaghdouini@uclouvain.be) (hepatic stellate cells and eventually other hepatic cell types).