CFD assessment of the effect of convective mass transport on the intracellular clearance of intracellular triglycerides in macrosteatotic hepatocytes

Gabriel Yarmush, Lucas Santos, Joshua Yarmush, Srivathsan Koundinyan, Mubasher Saleem, Nir I. Nativ, Martin L. Yarmush, Francois Berthiaume, Timothy J. Maguire, Chris Guaghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Donor livers available to transplant for patients with end-stage liver disease are in severe shortage. One possible avenue to expand the donor pool is to recondition livers that would be otherwise discarded due to excessive fat content. Severely steatotic livers (also known as fatty livers) are highly susceptible to ischemia-reperfusion injury and as a result, primary liver non-function post-transplantation. Prior studies in isolated perfused rat livers suggest that “defatting” may be possible in a timeframe of a few hours; thus, it is conceivable that fatty liver grafts could be recovered by machine perfusion to clear stored fat from the organ prior to transplantation. However, studies using hepatoma cells and adult hepatocytes made fatty in culture report that defatting may take several days. Because cell culture studies were done in static conditions, we hypothesized that the defatting kinetics are highly sensitive to flow-mediated transport of metabolites. To investigate this question, we experimentally evaluated the effect of increasing flow rate on the defatting kinetics of cultured HepG2 cells and developed an in silico combined reaction-transport model to identify possible rate-limiting steps in the defatting process. We found that in cultured fatty HepG2 cells, the time required to clear stored fat down to lean control cells can be reduced from 48 to 4–6 h by switching from static to flow conditions. The flow required resulted in a fluid shear of.008 Pa, which did not adversely affect hepatic function. The reaction-transport model suggests that the transport of l-carnitine, which is the carrier responsible for taking free fatty acids into the mitochondria, is the key rate-limiting process in defatting that was modulated by flow. Therefore, we can ensure higher levels of l-carnitine uptake by the cells by choosing flow rates that minimize the limiting mass transport while minimizing shear stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1095-1102
Number of pages8
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • Defatting
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Fluid flow
  • Hepatocyte
  • Liver
  • Shear stress
  • Steatosis


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