Review bioengineered liver cell models of hepatotropic infections

Francisca Arez, Ana F. Rodrigues, Catarina Brito, Paula M. Alves

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Hepatitis viruses and liver-stage malaria are within the liver infections causing higher morbidity and mortality rates worldwide. The highly restricted tropism of the major human hepa-totropic pathogens—namely, the human hepatitis B and C viruses and the Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax parasites—has hampered the development of disease models. These models are crucial for uncovering the molecular mechanisms underlying the biology of infection and governing host–pathogen interaction, as well as for fostering drug development. Bioengineered cell models better recapitulate the human liver microenvironment and extend hepatocyte viability and phenotype in vitro, when compared with conventional two-dimensional cell models. In this article, we review the bioengineering tools employed in the development of hepatic cell models for studying infection, with an emphasis on 3D cell culture strategies, and discuss how those tools contributed to the level of recapitulation attained in the different model layouts. Examples of host–pathogen interactions uncovered by engineered liver models and their usefulness in drug development are also presented. Finally, we address the current bottlenecks, trends, and prospect toward cell models’ reliability, robustness, and reproducibility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number773
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • 3D cell models
  • Bioengineering tools
  • Disease models
  • Drug development
  • Hepatocytes
  • Hepatotropic pathogens
  • Host–pathogen interactions
  • In vitro
  • Liver
  • Plasmodium
  • Viral hepatitis


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