Investigation of Macrophage Differentiation and Cytokine Production in an Undergraduate Immunology Laboratory

Document Type

Article - Open Access

Publication Title

Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching


Association of College and University Biology Educators

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

We have developed a semester-long laboratory project for an undergraduate immunology course in which students study multiple aspects of macrophage biology including differentiation from progenitors in the bone marrow, activation upon stimulation with microbial ligands, expression of cell surface markers, and modulation of cytokine production. In the first part of the semester, students differentiate macrophages from mouse bone marrow stem cells and perform immunophenotyping on their macrophages using myeloid markers that are either constitutively expressed or expressed upon activation with microbial ligands. Students use a low-cost image cytometer to both visualize and quantify cellular expression of myeloid markers. Students then perform literature research, design, and execute a series of experiments aimed at investigating the role of natural anti-inflammatory compounds on TNF--a production in these macrophages. The soup-to-nuts investigative approach in which students generate “their own” macrophages and study their functions over the course of the semester fostered a sense of ownership and accomplishment.