Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (IHCC) is a highly aggressive malignancy with a poor prognosis. It is thought to originate from cholangiocytes, which are the component cells of intrahepatic bile ducts. However, as patients with viral hepatitis often develop IHCC, it has been suggested that transformed hepatocytes may play a role in IHCC development. To investigate whether IHCC cells can be converted to functional hepatocytes, we established organoids derived from human IHCC and cultured them under conditions suitable for hepatocyte differentiation. IHCC organoids after hepatocyte differentiation acquired functions of mature hepatocytes such as albumin secretion, bile acid production and increased CYP3A4 activity. Studies using a mouse model of IHCC indicate that Wnt3a derived from macrophages recruited upon inflammation in the liver may promote the malignant transformation of hepatocytes to IHCC cells. The results of the present study support the recently proposed hypothesis that IHCC cells are derived from hepatocytes.
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