Acute liver failure (ALF) is a disease with a mortality of 60–90% depending on the cause. Only high-urgency liver transplantation is able to increase survival compared to standard intensive care therapy. Liver transplantation is hampered by the increasing shortage of organ donors, resulting in a high incidence of patients with ALF dying on the transplantation waiting list. Amongst a variety of liver assist therapies, bioartificial liver (BAL) therapy is marked as the most promising solution to bridge ALF patients to liver transplantation or to liver regeneration, since several BAL systems showed significant improvement of survival time in experimental animals with irreversible ALF. One of these systems has been developed at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands – the AMC-BAL. This overview describes the development of the AMC-BAL based on porcine hepatocytes which was started 10 years ago. Positive results of in vitrofunctionality and in vivo safety and efficacy led to a successful phase I study in 12 ALF patients in Italy. However, xenotransplantation legislation in many European countries prohibits the use of porcine hepatocytes in clinically applied BAL systems. The future of the BAL, therefore, resides in the development of a human-derived hepatocyte cell line as biocomponent of BAL systems.

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