Clinically relevant cell culture tools for COVID-19 research

As the global COVID-19 pandemic evolves, researchers worldwide are working hard to study the mechanisms underlying SARS-CoV-2 infection. Thanks to their discoveries, new insights for developing treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tools are being made possible.

During virus infection, the respiratory tract epithelium forms a physical barrier that pathogens encounter. Understanding this barrier is greatly enhanced by having well characterized and standardized cell culture models of the epithelium. The ability to model the different properties and functions of the respiratory tract in vitro is key to successfully translating research findings into real-world medical applications.
At PromoCell, we support researchers in achieving this by providing well characterized and standardized human primary cells isolated from the proximal and distal respiratory tract. We also provide specialty cell culture media matched to each primary cell type as well as an exceptional wide range of assays, biochemicals, antibodies and recombinant proteins (such as cytokines and growth factors) that are useful for respiratory and infectious diseases research. All our customers benefit from personalized technical support from PhD scientists.
Using human primary airway epithelial cells for infection studies with SARS-CoV-2 allows researchers to study how the virus interacts with its natural host. This contrasts with studying the virus in cell lines, which are often derived from tumor tissue and display modified gene and protein expression patterns. Cell lines are therefore unable to give a true insight into how SARS-CoV-2 interacts with human tissue.

Products for Respiratory Research

Human respiratory tract
Product Cat. No
Human Nasal Epithelial Cells (HNEpC) C-12620
Human Tracheal Epithelial Cells (HTEpC) C-12644
Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells (HBEpC) C-12640
Human Small Airway Epithelial Cells (HSAEpC) C-12642
Airway Epithelial Cell Growth Medium C-21060
Small Airway Epithelial Cell Growth Medium C-21070

Advantages of using Human Primary Cells

– A wide range of available donors give you access to primary cells from different genetic backgrounds and health status parameters (e.g. donors with COPD or asthma)

– Access to cells from various tissue localizations (nasal, tracheal, bronchial, small airways)

– A large stock inventory so you can plan multiple experiments using the same donor and media reagents

Selected publications featuring PromoCell products

Leading virology labs around the globe rely on PromoCell products for developing new strategies to fight COVID-19, and this work has already produced several publications.

A recent publication by Hoffmann et al. from the Pöhlmann lab at the German Primate Center in Göttingen, in cooperation with the Robert Koch Institute and the Drosten lab at Charité amongst others, has highlighted the mechanism of infection by SARS-CoV-2 through the SARS-CoV ACE2 host receptor and priming with TMPRSS2. This was investigated in primary bronchial epithelial cells isolated using PromoCell’s Airway Epithelial Basal Medium. Their studies suggest that antibodies targeted against SARS-CoV may offer protection against SARS-CoV-2.

A study by Lukassen et al. from the Eils lab at the Berlin Institute of Health, in cooperation with the group of Prof. Kreuter at the Heidelberg University Hospital amongst others, has revealed how tissue localization and patient-specific parameters influence host cell vulnerability. For this, the expression of SARS-CoV-2 host factors like ACE2, TMPRSS2 and FURIN in epithelial cells isolated from different patients and tissue localizations using PromoCell Airway Epithelial Growth Medium Supplements was analyzed.

The use of advanced cell culture technologies like Organ on Chip in combination with rapid cell-based screening assays also show a great promise in accelerating drug repurposing for the fast developing efficient treatments. In a recent paper by Si et al. from the Ingber group at the Wyss Institute in Boston, this approach was applied to identify multiple approved drugs that could serve to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection. For this, primary human lung airway epithelial basal stem cells sourced from multiple donors were cultured using PromoCell’s Airway Epithelial Cell Growth Medium.


SARS CoV2 Receptor FigureHoffmann M et al. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 Cell Entry Depends on ACE2 and TMPRSS2 and Is Blocked by a Clinically Proven Protease Inhibitor. Cell. 2020 Apr 16;181(2):271-280.e8.

Lukassen S et al. (2020) SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are primarily expressed in bronchial transient secretory cells. EMBO J. 2020 Apr 4:e105114.

Si L et al. (2020). Human organs-on-chips as tools for repurposing approved drugs as potential influenza and COVID19 therapeutics in viral pandemics. bioRxiv preprint (doi: 10.1101/2020.04.13.039917).


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