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Tracking the kinetics of intrahepatic immune responses by repeated fine needle aspiration of the liver

Pembroke, Tom, Gallimore, Awen, Godkin, Andrew
Journal of Immunological Methods 2015 v.424 pp. 131-135
analgesia, biopsy, flow cytometry, hepatoma, immune response, inflammation, liver, liver failure, natural killer cells, patients, phenotype
Liver disease is an increasing global health burden. The final sequalae of cirrhosis, liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma are often the result of inflammation driven by intrahepatic lymphocytes. Accurate assessment of organ-specific diseases ideally employs tissue sampling though this is rarely performed. Here we report our experiences of utilising repeated fine needle aspirations (FNAs) to assess liver-derived leukocytes. In 88 patient samples, we obtained a mean of 36,959 lymphocytes from each FNA-derived biopsy (SD 22,319 cells, range 5034–91,242 cells) measured by flow cytometry. This quick technique required minimal analgesia compared to liver biopsy (p=0.03); was well tolerated and safe, and hence repeated sampling up to 3 times within a week was feasible. We detail the technique to rapidly derive a single cell suspension suitable for multiparameter flow cytometry analysis. Finally we illustrate the importance of organ-derived sampling by showing that natural killer (NK) cells from FNA samples have a markedly altered phenotype compared to those assessed in peripheral blood. In combination these data validate FNA as a powerful and well-tolerated method of sampling intrahepatic lymphocytes to study the immunology of acute and chronic liver diseases.