Establishment and characterization of anin vitrohuman small airway model (SmallAir™)

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Graphical abstractWe report here the establishment and characterization of an in vitro human small airway model (SmallAir™). The epithelial cells were isolated from the distal lungs by enzymatic digestion. After amplification, the cells were seeded on the microporous membrane of Transwell inserts. Once confluent, the cultures were switched to air-liquid interface. After 3 weeks of culture, the epithelium became fully differentiated, with morphology of columnar epithelium, and a thickness of 10–15 μm. Most significantly, CC-10, a specific marker of Club cells, was highly expressed in SmallAir™. CC-10 was detected by both immune-cytochemistry and Western Blot. As expected, SmallAir™ contained few Muc5-Ac positive cells (goblet cells). In contrast, CC-10 was not detected in MucilAir™, an in vitro model of the human nasal and bronchial epithelial model. Instead, Muc5-Ac was highly expressed in MucilAir™. However, both MucilAir™ and SmallAir™ contain basal cells and ciliated cells, showing cilia beating and mucociliary clearance. Clearly, MucilAir™ and SmallAir™ are two distinct airway epithelial models.

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