Profiling alveolar macrophage responses to inhaled compounds using in vitro high content image analysis

Ewelina Hoffman, Laura Urbano, Abigail Martin, Rhamiya Mahendran, Aateka Patel, Darragh Murnane, Clive Page, Lea Ann Dailey, Ben Forbes, Victoria Hutter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Downloads (Pure)


One of the main hurdles in the development of new inhaled medicines is the frequent observation of foamy macrophage (FM) responses in non-clinical studies in experimental animals, which raises safety concerns and hinders progress into clinical trials. We have investigated the potential of a novel multi-parameter high content image analysis (HCIA) assay as an in vitro safety screening tool to predict drug induced FM. Rat (NR8383) and human U937-derived alveolar macrophages were exposed in vitro to a panel of model compounds with different biological activity, including inhaled bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), phospholipidosis inducers and proapoptotic agents. An HCIA was utilized to produce drug-induced cell response profiles based on individual cell health, morphology and lipid content parameters. The profiles of both rat and human macrophage cell lines differentiated between cell responses to marketed inhaled drugs and compounds known to induce phospholipidosis and apoptosis. Hierarchical clustering of the aggregated data allowed identification of distinct cell profiles in response to exposure to phospholipidosis and apoptosis inducers. Additionally, in NR8383 cell responses formed two distinct clusters, associated with increased vacuolation with or without lipid accumulation. U937 cells presented a similar trend but appeared less sensitive to drug exposure and presented a narrower range of responses. These results indicate that our multi-parameter HCIA assay is suitable to generate characteristic drug-induced macrophage response profiles, thus enabling differentiation of foamy macrophage phenotypes associated with phospholipidosis and apoptosis. This approach shows great potential as pre-clinical in vitro screening tool for safety assessment of candidate inhaled medicines.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116608
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Early online date28 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Profiling alveolar macrophage responses to inhaled compounds using in vitro high content image analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this