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J Transl Med. 2004 Mar 16;2(1):6.

Human primary osteoclasts: in vitro generation and applications as pharmacological and clinical assay.

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Arthritis and Bone Metabolism Disease Area, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Basel, Novartis Pharma AG, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland.


Osteoclasts are cells of hematopoietic origin with a unique property of dissolving bone; their inhibition is a principle for treatment of diseases of bone loss. Protocols for generation of human osteoclasts in vitro have been described, but they often result in cells of low activity, raising questions on cell phenotype and suitability of such assays for screening of bone resorption inhibitors. Here we describe an optimized protocol for the production of stable amounts of highly active human osteoclasts. Mononuclear cells were isolated from human peripheral blood by density centrifugation, seeded at 600,000 cells per 96-well and cultured for 17 days in alpha-MEM medium, supplemented with 10% of selected fetal calf serum, 1 microM dexamethasone and a mix of macrophage-colony stimulating factor (M-CSF, 25 ng/ml), receptor activator of NFkappaB ligand (RANKL, 50 ng/ml), and transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1, 5 ng/ml). Thus, in addition to widely recognized osteoclast-generating factors M-CSF and RANKL, other medium supplements and lengthy culture times were necessary. This assay reliably detected inhibition of osteoclast formation (multinucleated cells positive for tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase) and activity (resorbed area and collagen fragments released from bone slices) in dose response curves with several classes of bone resorption inhibitors. Therefore, this assay can be applied for monitoring bone-resorbing activity of novel drugs and as an clinical test for determining the capacity of blood cells to generate bone-resorbing osteoclasts. Isolation of large quantities of active human osteoclast mRNA and protein is also made possible by this assay.

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