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How to Develop an Airway Epithelial Cell Model

The present study describes the optimal growth conditions for the proliferation and differentiation of bovine bronchial epithelial cells (BBECs). The cells are grown at an air-liquid interface (ALI) in a serum-free medium to produce an airway epithelial cell (AEC) model. The AEC model accurately mimics the in vivo bovine respiratory epithelium.

These findings provide a realistic and physiologically relevant in vitro model of the bovine respiratory tract. The model can be used for a wide range of applications in vaccine development and further research on the pathogenesis of bovine respiratory disease (BRD). This model should help reduce the use of live animals in BRD research.


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BRD is the most common and costly disease of cattle involving interactions between various bacterial and viral pathogens. Therefore, there is a pressing need for development of reliable and realistic in vitro models of the bovine respiratory tract to improve our knowledge of BRD pathogenesis.

It was found that epidermal growth factor (EGF) was required to trigger both proliferation and differentiation of BBECs grown at an ALI and retinoic acid was necessary for mucociliary differentiation. In contrast, triiodothyronine had no effects on differentiation of BBECs. Oxygen concentration exerted a minimal effect on differentiation of BBECs and highest ciliation was achieved when BBECs were cultured at 14% oxygen tension. Finally, it was found that high-pore-density was required to trigger optimum differentiation of BBECs at an ALI.

Fluorescence image results for this study were acquired using a DMi8 microscope.  Tissue sections were examined using a DM2000 microscope. To learn more about state-of-the-art upright and inverted compound microscopes from Leica Microsystems, click here.

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Cozens D, Grahame E, Sutherland E, Taylor G, Berry CC & Davies RL:
Development and optimization of a differentiated airway epithelial cell model of the bovine respiratory tract

Scientific Reportsvolume 8, Article number: 853 (2018);