Research Information

The Cell Model and Evaluation Core was established in 2007 and is currently organized on the basis of the well-established notion that CF morbidity and mortality can be mitigated by an improved understanding of defective CFTR channel function in the disease and its phenotypic consequences. To support this, the Core provides expertise, training, resources, and specialized equipment in three areas:  procure, grow, and distribute well-differentiated primary human airway epithelial cells from CF and non-CF donors.

Well-differentiated primary human airway epithelial cells have been an instrumental model in our understanding of the epithelial biology of the airway and are also highly predictive of in vivo results in clinical trials with CFTR modulators and other therapies. The Core interfaces with human subjects to procure, derive, and grow cells from lung transplants, excised nasal tissue, and nasal brushings – including samples obtained from a large array of collaborating centers Identify and test the latest methods to expand and differentiate primary cells from various sources to maximize their yield and utility. We also provide quality assurance and regulatory expertise necessary to protect the rights and safety of human subjects, including IRB submissions, Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs), and HIPAA compliance.

If you are an established user of primary airway cells, to request primary human airway epithelial cells, please fill out this form and contact Marina Mazur at 

If you are a new user, please contact Heather Hathorne at to assist with regulatory documentation required to become an established user.

Core Function #1: Conduct Functional Anatomic Imaging of Airway Epithelia by 1-micron Resolution Optical Coherence Tomography (μOCT) in vitro and ex vivo.

μOCT was developed in collaboration with Guillermo Tearney MD PhD at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University. μOCT is an innovative technique that provides real-time imaging of airway epithelia, and can quantitatively determine airway surface liquid (ASL)/periciliary layer (PCL) depth, ciliary beat frequency (CBF), mucociliary transport (MCT), and mucus viscosity of living cells and tissues in situ without contrast dyes or fixation. Analysis provides an ideal system for complex characterization of agents thought to alter ion transport, ciliary beating, or properties of the mucus while also providing new insight towards CF pathophysiology. Since introduced, the technique has been widely adopted, and is designated a National Core Resource. The Core conducts μOCT imaging of the functional anatomy of respiratory epithelia in: 1) well-differentiated primary epithelial cells (of human or non-human origin) and 2) intact full-thickness trachea or mainstem bronchi of human origin.

Solomon GM, et al. Assessment of ciliary phenotype in primary ciliary dyskinesia by micro-optical coherence tomography. JCI Insight. 2017;2(5):e91702. PMCID: PMC5333960

Birket SE et al. Combination therapy with cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator modulators augment the airway functional microanatomy. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2016;310(10):L928-39. PMCID: PMC4896103

Birket SE et al A functional anatomic defect of the cystic fibrosis airway. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2014;190: 421–432. PMCID: PMC4214131

Liu L et al. Method for quantitative study of airway functional microanatomy using micro-optical coherence tomography. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54473. PMCID: PMC3553101

Liu et al, PLoS One, 2013. Representative μOCT movie of primary HBE culture mucociliary transport.

Core Function #2: Perform Measures of CFTR Activity and Expression.

The Core provides the gold-standard measures of CFTR activity and expression including: Transepithelial ion transport measurements by Ussing chamber (ISC) High-throughput evolution by equivalent and transepithelial conductance (Gt) and equivalent current (IEQ), CFTR expression studies by Western blot and digital mRNA analysis utilizing primary cells grown on permeable supports The Core can also contextualize analysis and provide quality assurance on findings, facilitating interpretations and translation, and incorporate mechanistic studies through related Cores. 

Contact Information

Core users are associated both within and beyond the CF Research Center; there is no limitation on who may access the Core. For additional information, please contact:

George Solomon, M.D.
Co-Director, Cell Model and Evaluation Core

Bradford A. Woodworth, M.D.
Co-Director, Cell Model and Evaluation Core