Peribiliary glands (PBG) are a source of stem/progenitor cells organized in a cellular network encircling large bile ducts. Severe cholangiopathy with loss of luminal biliary epithelium has been proposed to activate PBG, resulting in cell proliferation and differentiation to restore biliary epithelial integrity. However, formal evidence for this concept in human livers is lacking. We, therefore, developed a novel ex vivo model using precision-cut slices of extrahepatic human bile ducts obtained from discarded donor livers, providing an intact anatomical organization of cell structures, to study spatiotemporal differentiation and migration of PBG cells after severe biliary injury. Post-ischemic bile duct slices were incubated in oxygenated culture medium for up to a week. At baseline, severe tissue injury was evident with loss of luminal epithelial lining and mural stroma necrosis. In contrast, PBG remained relatively well preserved and different reactions of PBG were noted, including PBG dilatation, cell proliferation and maturation. Proliferation of PBG cells increased after 24 h of oxygenated incubation, reaching a peak after 72 h. Proliferation of PBG cells was paralleled by a reduction in PBG apoptosis and differentiation from a primitive and pluripotent (Nanog+/Sox9+) to a mature (CFTR+/secretin receptor+) and activated phenotype (increased expression of HIF-1α, Glut-1, and VEGF-A). Migration of proliferating PBG cells in our ex vivo model was unorganized, but resulted in generation of epithelial monolayers at stromal surfaces. CONCLUSION: Human PBG contain biliary progenitor cells and are able to respond to bile duct epithelial loss with proliferation, differentiation, and maturation to restore epithelial integrity. The ex vivo spatiotemporal behaviour of human PBG cells provides evidence for a pivotal role of PBG in biliary regeneration after severe injury. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.