A three-dimensional culture system for the growth of primate and rodent bone marrow was developed in our laboratory. This method involves the seeding of stromal cells onto a nylon screen and the inoculation of fresh or cryopreserved bone marrow hematopoietic cells after stromal cell processes had extended across 3 to 4 out of every 5 mesh openings. Stromal cells attach, grow, and secrete matrix proteins which contribute to an intricate microenvironment for the support of multilineage hematopoiesis, which was observed for >270 days in the rat model and for >12 weeks in the human system, as evidenced by flow cytometry analysis and in vitro clonogenic assays. The adherent zones of these suspended nylon screen cultures consisted primarily of immature cells. These cultures could also be used as substrates for cytotoxicity measurements; treatment of rat bone marrow cultures of various ages with cytosine β-D arabinofuranoside, cyclophosphamide, 5-fluorouracil, or methotrexate resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in CFU-C numbers and altered the phenotypic distribution of hematologic cells in the adherent zone. The use of a modification of this method to generate large numbers of active cytolytic cells after >75 days culture of rat bone marrow-derived natural killer cells is described also. Suspended nylon screen bone marrow culture also has potential uses in genetic insertion and graft vs. host disease studies, blood component therapy, the evaluation of ex vivo purging programs, and in marrow expansion for transplantation.

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