Cholangiocytes-the epithelial cells which line the bile ducts-are increasingly recognized as important transporting epithelia actively involved in the absorption and secretion of water, ions, and solutes. This recognition is due in part to the recent development of new experimental models. New biologic concepts have emerged including the identification and topography of receptors and flux proteins on the apical and/or basolateral membrane which are involved in the molecular mechanisms of ductal bile secretion. Individually isolated and/or perfused bile duct units from livers of rats and mice serve as new, physiologically relevant in vitro models to study cholangiocyte transport. Biliary tree dimensions and novel insights into anatomic remodelling of proliferating bile ducts have emerged from three-dimensional reconstruction using CT scanning and sophisticated software. Moreover, new pathologic concepts have arisen regarding the interaction of cholangiocytes with pathogens such as Cryptosporidium parvum. These concepts and associated methodologies may provide the framework to develop new therapies for the cholangiopathies, a group of important hepatobiliary diseases in which cholangiocytes are the target cell.
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