High content analysis of in vitro alveolar macrophage responses can provide mechanistic insight for inhaled product safety assessment
Assessing the safety of inhaled substances in the alveolar region of the lung requires an understanding of how the respired material interacts with both physical and immunological barriers. Human alveolar-like macrophages in vitro provide a platform to assess the immunological response in the airways and may better inform the understanding of a response to an inhaled challenge being adaptive or adverse. The aim of this study was to determine if a morphometric phenotyping approach could discriminate between different inhaled nicotine products and indicate the potential mechanism of toxicity of a substance. Cigarette smoke (CS) and e-liquids extracted into cell culture medium were applied to human alveolar-like macrophages in mono-culture (ImmuONE™) and co-culture (ImmuLUNG™) to test the hypothesis. Phenotype profiling of cell responses was highly reproducible and clearly distinguished the different responses to CS and e-liquids. Whilst the phenotypes of untreated macrophages were similar regardless of culture condition, macrophages cultured in the presence of epithelial cells were more sensitive to CS-induced changes related to cell size and vacuolation processes. This technique demonstrated phenotypical observations typical for CS exposure and indicative of the established mechanisms of toxicity. The technique provides a rapid screening approach to determine detailed immunological responses in the airways which can be linked to potentially adverse pathways and support inhalation safety assessment.