The physical presence of gallstone modulates ex vivo cholesterol crystallization pathways of human bile

Piero Portincasa, Karel J. Van Erpecum, Agostino Di Ciaula, David Q.H. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Cholesterol crystallization is an essential step toward gallstone formation. Although model bile studies showed that competition occurs between the gallstone surface and the surrounding aqueous phase for cholesterol molecules available for crystallization, this has not been investigated in human bile. Methods: Fresh gallbladder bile was obtained during laparoscopic cholecystectomy from 13 patients with cholesterol (n ¼ 10) or pigment (n ¼ 3) stones. Small cholesterol gallstones were collected from another two patients. Both native and ultrafiltered bile with or without added gallstones was analysed by polarized light microscopy for the presence of arc-like and needle-like anhydrous cholesterol crystals and classic cholesterol monohydrate crystals. Weight of the added stones was evaluated before and after 21 days of bile incubation. Results: In unfiltered bile, the presence of stones was associated with a trend towards less anhydrous cholesterol crystals, but significantly more aggregated cholesterol monohydrate crystals. In ultrafiltered bile, the presence of stones tended to inhibit the formation of arc-like or needle-like crystals and was associated with significantly greater amounts of both plate-like and aggregated cholesterol monohydrate crystals. After 21 days of the incubation, stone weight was decreased in both unfiltered (-4.5 6 1.6%, P ¼ 0.046) and ultrafiltered bile (-6.5 6 1.5%, P ¼ 0.002). Bile from pigment-stone patients was clear in the absence of stones, but showed early appearance of plate-like and aggregated cholesterol monohydrate crystals in all samples to which cholesterol gallstones were added. Conclusions: The physical presence of cholesterol gallstones in both native and filtered bile greatly influences cholesterol crystallization pathways. Whereas cholesterol monohydrate crystals increase, anhydrous cholesterol crystals tend to be inhibited. Detachment of solid cholesterol crystals from the gallstone surface may explain these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-41
Number of pages10
JournalGastroenterology Report
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Bile
  • Cholesterol crystals
  • Cholesterol stones
  • Pigment stones
  • Polarizing light microscopy
  • Supersaturated bile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'The physical presence of gallstone modulates ex vivo cholesterol crystallization pathways of human bile'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this