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Dig Dis Sci. 1995 Feb;40(2):412-8.

Human polymorphonuclear leukocyte phagocytosis of crystalline cholesterol, bilirubin, and calcium hydroxyapatite in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois 60611.


We tested the hypothesis that human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) phagocytize crystalline cholesterol, bilirubin, or calcium hydroxyapatite in vitro and in the process release oxygen metabolites and enzymes involved in the inflammatory process. Chemiluminescence (CL), elicited by the respiratory burst (release and activation of oxygen metabolites and enzymes) of PMNs during phagocytosis of a target particle, was used to quantitate PMN phagocytosis of each crystal. Significant CL (P < 0.05) was observed with cholesterol concentrations of 1.3-5.3 mg/ml and the dose-response was linear (r > or = 0.95). With bilirubin, significant CL was observed with concentrations of 0.07-0.33 mg/ml. The response to calcium hydroxyapatite was variable. Human PMNs phagocytize cholesterol, bilirubin, and to a lesser extent, calcium hydroxyapatite. PMN chemiluminescence was associated with phagocytosis, indicating that inflammatory substances are being released in the process. These results support the concept that crystals that occur in the gallbladder may initiate gallbladder inflammation.

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