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J Biomed Mater Res A. 2009 Mar 15;88(4):858-71. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.31930.

Phenotypic non-equivalence of murine (monocyte-) macrophage cells in biomaterial and inflammatory models.

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Cell and Molecular Biology Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA.


Cells of the mononuclear phagocytic system including monocytes and macrophages (e.g., pooled human monocytes, bone marrow-derived macrophages, etc.) are often employed for in vitro assessment of novel biomaterials and to assay anti-inflammatory drug activity. In this context, numerous macrophage cells are treated interchangeably in the literature despite a lack of demonstrated equivalence among immortalized cell lines and further, between cell lines and primary-derived macrophages of different species. Three murine (monocyte-) macrophage cell lines (IC-21, J774A.1, and RAW 264.7), commonly utilizedin biomaterial and pharmaceutical screening research, have been compared with primary-derived murine bone marrow macrophages. Significant differences were discovered in the expression of cell surface proteins requisite for cell adhesion and activation among cell lines and primary-derived cells as well as between the different cell lines. Results demonstrate activation but with reduced cytokine expression to chemical stimulus (lipopolysaccharide) by cell lines compared with that of primary-derived macrophages. Limited correlation between cultured primary and immortalized cells in cytokine production, phenotype and intrinsic activation states has relevance to fidelity for in vitro testing. These differences warrant justification for selection of various cell lines for specific assay purposes, and merit caution if comparisons to primary cell types (i.e., for biocompatibility) are required.

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