Endothelial cells were isolated from freshly obtained human umbilical cords by collagenase digestion of the interior of the umbilical vein. The cells were grown in tissue culture as a homogeneous population for periods up to 5 mo and some lines were subcultured for 10 serial passages. During the logarithmic phase of cell growth, cell-doubling time was 92 h. Light, phase contrast, and scanning electron microscopy demonstrated that cultured human endothelial cells grew as monolayers of closely opposed, polygonal large cells whereas both cultured human fibroblasts and human smooth muscle cells grew as overlapping layers of parallel arrays of slender, spindle-shaped cells. By transmission electron microscopy, cultured endothelial cells were seen to contain cytoplasmic inclusions (Weibel-Palade bodies) characteristic of in situ endothelial cells. These inclusions were also found in endothelial cells lining umbilical veins but were not seen in smooth muscle cells or fibroblasts in culture or in situ. Cultured endothelial cells contained abundant quantities of smooth muscle actomyosin. Cultured endothelial cells also contained ABH antigens appropriate to the tissue donor's blood type; these antigens were not detectable on cultured smooth muscle cells or fibroblasts. These studies demonstrate that it is possible to culture morphologically and immunologically identifiable human endothelial cells for periods up to 5 mo.
Eric A. Jaffe, Ralph L. Nachman, Carl G. Becker, C. Richard Minick