- Tissue engineering with three-dimensional biomaterials represents a promising approach for developing hepatic tissue to replace the function of a failing liver. Herein, we address cell seeding and distribution within porous alginate scaffolds, which represent a new type of porous biomaterial for tissue engineering. The hydrophilic nature of the alginate scaffold as well as its pore structure and interconnectivity enabled the efficient seeding of hepatocytes into the scaffolds, that is, 70-90% of the initial cells depending on the seeding method. Utilization of centrifugal force during seeding enhanced cell distribution in the porous scaffolds, consequently enabling the seeding of concentrated cell suspensions (>1 x 10(7) cells/mL). Cell density in scaffolds affected hepatocyte viability as judged by MTT assay. At a cell density of 0.28 x 10(6) cells/cm3 scaffold, the number of viable hepatocytes decreased to 33% of its initial value within 7 days, whereas at the denser cultures, 5.7 x 10(6) cells/cm3 scaffold and higher, the cells maintained higher viability while forming a network of connecting spheroids. In the high-density cellular constructs, hepatocellular functions such as albumin and urea secretion, and detoxification (cytochrome P-450 and phase II conjugating enzyme activities), remained high during the 7-day culture. Collectively, the results of the present study highlight the importance of cell density on the hepatocellular functions of three-dimensional hepatocyte constructs as well as the advantages of alginate matrices as scaffoldings.