Electron microscopic observations in perfusion-fixed human non-alcoholic fatty liver disease biopsies

P. Verhaegh*, E. Wisse, T. de Munck, J.W. Greve, J. Verheij, R. Riedl, H. Duimel, A. Masclee, D. Jonkers, G. Koek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a widespread liver disease in Western society, but its multifactorial pathogenesis is not yet fully understood. Ultrastructural analysis of liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) in animal models and in vitro studies shows defenestration early in the course of NAFLD, promoting steatosis. LSECs and fenestrae are important in the transport of lipids across the sinusoids. However, human ultrastructural data, especially on LSECs and fenestrae, are scarce. This study aimed to explore the ultrastructural changes in perfusion type fixed liver biopsies of NAFLD patients with and without nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), with a special focus on LSECs and their fenestration. Liver biopsies from patients with NAFLD were fixed using two perfusion techniques, jet and injection fixation, for needle and wedge biopsies, respectively. Ultrastructural changes were studied using transmission electron microscopy. NASH was diagnosed by bright-field microscopy using the SAF score (steatosis, activity, fibrosis). Thirty-seven patients were included, of which 12 (32.4%) had NASH. Significantly less defenestration was found in NASH compared to noNASH samples (p=0.002). Other features, i.e., giant mitochondria and fenestrae size did not differ between groups. Furthermore, we described new structures, i.e., single cell steatonecrosis and inflammatory fat follicles (IFF) that were observed in both groups. Concluding, defenestration was more common in noNASH compared to NASH in human liver samples. Defenestration was not related to the degree of steatosis or fibrosis. We speculate that defenestration can be a protective mechanism in simple steatosis which is lacking in NASH.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-228
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • defenestration
  • fenestrae
  • liver sinusoidal endothelial cell
  • non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis

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