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Cryobiology. 2007 Apr;54(2):164-72. Epub 2007 Jan 8.

Characterization of rat and human Kupffer cells after cryopreservation.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Regensburg, 93042 Regensburg, Germany.


Kupffer cells (KC) are the resident macrophages of the liver and represent about 80% of the total fixed macrophage population. They are involved in disease states such as endotoxin shock, alcoholic liver diseases and other toxic-induced liver injury. They release physiologically active substances such as eicosanoids and inflammatory cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, TNFalpha), and produce free radical species. Thus, KC are attractive targets for anti-inflammatory therapies and potential candidates responsible for differences in inflammation in liver disease seen between different individuals. However, to perform parallel in vitro experiments with KC from different donors a suitable method for conservation of KC would be necessary. Therefore, the present study evaluated, whether rat and human KC can be frozen, stored and recovered without losing their functional integrity. Rat and human KC were isolated and either cultured under standard conditions (fresh KC) or cryopreserved in special freezing medium (cryopreserved KC). At least 24 h later, cryopreserved KC were thawed, brought into suspension and seeded in the same density as fresh cells for subsequent experiments. Viability of cultured KC was analyzed by trypan blue exclusion. LPS (or PBS as control) stimulation was performed at different time points and cytokine release was analyzed with IL-6 and TNFalpha ELISAs, respectively. Phagocytic capacity was investigated by using a specific phagocytosis assay and FACS analysis. The recovery rate after thawing was around 57% for rat and around 65% for human cryopreserved KC. The results indicate, that KC can successfully be cryopreserved with an adequate recovery rate of viable cells. The properties of fresh and frozen KC can also be compared after thawing. Freshly isolated and cryopreserved cultured KC showed near-normal morphology and did not differ in the cultivation profiles over a period of 72 h. One to three days after seeding, frozen rat or human KC also retained inducible functions such as the production of TNFalpha or IL-6 after LPS challenge. Finally, regardless if they were cryopreserved or not, no differences in the phagocytic activities of the cells were obtained. Taken together, it is concluded that cryopreservation of KC does not change the physiological characteristics of the cells in vitro. Therefore, the method used here for cryopreservation of especially human KC allows the accumulation of KC from several donors for parallel in vitro experiments.

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