Due in part to the recent development of new experimental models, cholangiocytes - the epithelial cells that line the bile ducts - are increasingly recognized as important transporting epithelia actively involved in the absorption and secretion of water, ions, and solutes. New biologic concepts have emerged including the identification and topography of receptors and flux proteins involved in the molecular mechanisms of ductal bile secretion. Individually isolated 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 remodeling of proliferating bile ducts have emerged from three-dimensional reconstruction using computed tomographic scanning and sophisticated software. Moreover, new pathologic concepts have arisen regarding the interaction of cholangiocytes with pathogens. These concepts may provide the framework for new therapies for the cholangiopathies, a group of important hepatobiliary diseases in which cholangiocytes are the target cell.
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