The air-blood barrier is mainly composed of alveolar epithelial cells and macrophages. While the epithelium acts as a diffusion barrier, macrophages provide an immunological barrier, especially for larger molecules and nanoparticles. In this paper, the researchers describe a robust co-culture model with human alveolar epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages that mimics the deep lung in terms of cell constitution and physiological conditions (i.e., at the air-liquid interface). These functions correlate with the location in vivo, where the apical compartment represents the part of the lung exposed to air, whereas the basolateral compartment mimics blood flow. The co-culture was characterized in terms of cell morphology, viability, and barrier function. Macrophages were homogeneously distributed on the epithelium and could be maintained in co-culture for up to 7 days. When exposed to silver and starch nanoparticles, hAELVi monocultures were more tolerant to the particles than THP-1 monocultures. Viability in co-culture was similar to that of hAELVi monocultures. Transport studies with sodium fluorescein proved that the co-culture acted as a functional diffusion barrier. These data indicate that hAELVi-/THP-1 co-cultures are a promising model for the safety and permeability studies of inhaled chemicals, drugs, and nanoparticles.
Co-culture of human alveolar epithelial (hAELVi) and macrophage (THP-1) cell lines
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