Macrophages can enable the development of cell-based therapies for numerous diseases and test systems for infectious diseases

Macrophages are essential for the immune response as well as for tissue repair and the elimination of cancer cells. In addition, these scavenger cells of our immune system fight off bacteria and viruses in the lungs. But they can be weakened, for example due to a genetic defect or an infection that has already passed through. A variety of diseases can also cause the function of these important cells to be impaired. Replacing these diseased cells with healthy ones from the laboratory – this is one of the latest cell therapy approaches that RESIST researcher Professor Dr. Nico Lachmann is currently investigating.

To this end, he and his team have now created detailed instructions for the continuous mass production of macrophages and published them in the journal Nature Protocols. The macrophages are thereby derived from human stem cells based on artificial reprogramming of somatic cells. “This strategy is simple and robust, can be performed in suspension culture or stirred tank bioreactors, and 20-50 million functional and highly pure macrophages can be produced continuously per week over several months,” says Prof. Lachmann.

However, the ability to produce fully standardised macrophages allows for even more: innovative test systems can now be developed to improve novel anti-bacterial or anti-viral agents and test them for safety. Potential contaminants of drugs can also be detected with the cells. “The new technique is an important contribution for RESIST to break new ground in tomorrow’s infection medicine.”

The picture shows a fluorescence image of macrophages from genetically modified stem cells (iPSC). Copyright: Shifaa Abdin