Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is considered the 3rd leading cause of death by cancer worldwide with the majority of patients were diagnosed in the late stages. Currently, there is no effective therapy. The selection of an animal model that mimics human cancer is essential for the identification of prognostic/predictive markers, candidate genes underlying cancer induction and the examination of factors that may influence the response of cancers to therapeutic agents and regimens. In this study, we developed a HCC nude rat models using cell sheet and examined the effect of human stromal cells (SCs) on the development of the HCC model and on different liver parameters such as albumin and urea. Methods: Transplanted cell sheet for HCC rat models was fabricated using thermo-responsive culture dishes. The effect of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stromal cells (UC-MSCs) and human bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs) on the developed tumour was tested. Furthermore, development of tumour and detection of the liver parameter was studied. Additionally, angiogenesis assay was performed using Matrigel. Results: HepG2 cells requires five days to form a complete cell sheet while HepG2 co-cultured with UC-MSCs or BM-MSCs took only three days. The tumour developed within 4 weeks after transplantation of the HCC sheet on the liver of nude rats. Both UC-MSCs and BM-MSCs improved the secretion of liver parameters by increasing the secretion of albumin and urea. Comparatively, the UC-MSCs were more effective than BM-MSCs, but unlike BM-MSCs, UC-MSCs prevented liver tumour formation and the tube formation of HCC. Conclusions: Since this is a novel study to induce liver tumour in rats using hepatocellular carcinoma sheet and stromal cells, the data obtained suggest that cell sheet is a fast and easy technique to develop HCC models as well as UC-MSCs have therapeutic potential for liver diseases. Additionally, the data procured indicates that stromal cells enhanced the fabrication of HepG2 cell sheets. This provides the foundation for future research using stromal cells in preclinical and clinical investigations.
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