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human fibroblasts

Human Fibroblasts: a Multi-Faceted Cell Type

Fibroblasts are a type of mesenchymal cell most commonly found in the connective tissue of many organs, including the gastrointestinal tract, skin, bladder, uterus, and others. Fibroblasts produce connective tissue and extracellular matrix, both of which are important for supporting the organs in which they are produced. In addition, fibroblasts crosstalk extensively with surrounding tissues, and are important in tissue development, differentiation, and disease. For example, tumors that have a high stromal component may contain large numbers of cancer-associated fibroblasts that become activated by the tumor environment and can promote further tumor progression.

Lifeline® offers human fibroblasts from multiple origins, optimized for growth in FibroLife® Medium, including:

Recent Research Featuring Lifeline® Human Fibroblasts

Fibroblasts are a diverse population of cells and play a multitude of different roles within many organs. To evaluate the organ-specific differences and whole organism diversity of fibroblasts, Higuchi et al. performed a global gene expression analysis on 63 human primary fibroblasts from different origins. The researchers used Lifeline® uterine fibroblasts in their study, along with fibroblasts from the lung, vascular adventitia, breast dermis, mammary gland, liver, gallbladder, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and prostate. They found that of all the fibroblasts analyzed, gastrointestinal fibroblasts (GIFs) clustered separately from fibroblasts of other organ origins, and also clustered based on their anatomical location within the gastrointestinal tract. The group concluded that this regional specificity might help drive differentiation and development of the gastrointestinal tract.

Mitochondria are motile within a cell, and often move to areas of increased metabolic activity. Kandel et al. developed an algorithm to quantify and track mitochondrial movements within a cell. In particular, since mitochondrial motility is most often studied in neurons, they wanted to develop an algorithm that would apply to multiple cell types. To evaluate their approach, the researchers performed their experiments with Lifeline® adult dermal fibroblasts. Using their algorithm, they could track mitochondrial movements in fibroblasts under both homeostatic conditions and following perturbations. Under normal conditions, mitochondria traveled less than 1 μM within the cell. However, when the researchers added cyanide to disrupt mitochondrial function, or nocodazole to depolymerize microtubules, they observed a corresponding decrease in mitochondrial mobility. In contrast, cytochalasin D, a microfilament depolymerizing agent, increased mitochondrial mobility. Interestingly, co-treatment with both nocodazole and cytochalasin D resulted in a net zero change in mitochondrial motility. Together, the results of this study suggest that this algorithm efficiently quantifies changes in mitochondrial motility and can be applied to multiple cell types.


Many cancers are treated with radiation; however, radiation can also damage healthy cells, causing numerous side effects. To minimize side effects, there is an effort to identify cytoprotective agents that would protect healthy cells from damaging radiation. Tocotrienols have shown the most promise as cytoprotective agents against radiation, but they are prohibitively expensive to produce. Therefore, Krager et al. set out to evaluate the cytoprotective efficacy of naturally occurring tocotrienols found in rice bran, the tocotrienol-rich fraction of rice bran (TRFRB). They found that the antioxidant activity of TRFRB in rat liver microsomes and its protective effects against mitochondrial damage mimicked that of pure tocotrienols. The researchers used Lifeline® human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) to assess the protective effects of TRFRB against radiation- induced oxidative damage. They found TRFRB pre-treatment protected HDFs from oxidative damage, but did not protect against eventual cell death. Finally, the researchers found that keratinocyte migration and survival following radiation exposure decreased with TRFRB treatment. Together, the results of this study suggest TRFRB is a promising compound to replace the expensive tocotrienols as cytoprotective agents against radiation damage.


In a 2015 report, Barker-Treasure et al. describe their efforts to develop an in vitro system for testing cosmetics. Historically, cosmetic ingredients were tested on animals, which raised ethical concerns and relied on extrapolation to human cells. In this study, the researchers used Lifeline® human dermal fibroblasts for their studies to evaluate the cytotoxicity of cosmetic ingredients. Skin products have evolved in recent years from products that did not penetrate beyond the outer skin layer, to products that do, and in turn, may affect dermal fibroblasts. Therefore, dermal fibroblasts were used in this study to determine whether cosmetic products that penetrate to fibroblasts exhibited any toxicity for this cell type. The researchers measured the ability of cells to retain a dye (Neural Red) as a readout of membrane function, disruption of which can indicate impaired cell viability. The group found that the Neural Red test is a viable in vitro model to evaluate the effects of cosmetic ingredients. Additionally, they found that the results of the Neural Red test in human dermal fibroblasts differed from previous results with mouse cells, suggesting that this is a more relevant model to predict effects in human cells.

How are you using Lifeline® cells to answer your research questions? Share your experience with us and your study could be featured here on our blog!

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