The zebrafish embryo as a model to quantify early inflammatory cell responses to biomaterials

Xiaolin Zhang, Oliver W. Stockhammer, Leonie de Boer, Norbert O.E. Vischer, Herman P. Spaink, Dirk W. Grijpma, Sebastian A.J. Zaat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


To rapidly assess early inflammatory cell responses provoked by biomaterials in the full complexity of the living organism, we developed a zebrafish embryo model which allows real time analysis of these responses to biomaterial microspheres. Fluorescently labeled microspheres with different properties were injected into embryos of selected transgenic zebrafish lines expressing distinct fluorescent proteins in their neutrophils and macrophages. Recruitment of leukocytes and their interactions with microspheres were monitored using fluorescence microscopy. We developed a novel method using ImageJ and the plugin ObjectJ project file “Zebrafish-Immunotest” for rapid and semi-automated fluorescence quantification of the cellular responses. In the embryo model we observed an ordered inflammatory cell response to polystyrene and poly (ε-caprolactone) microspheres, similar to that described for mammalian animal models. The responses were characterized by an early infiltration of neutrophils followed by macrophages, and subsequent differentially timed migration of these cells away from the microspheres. The size of microspheres (10 and 15 µm) did not influence the cellular responses. Poly (ε-caprolactone) microspheres provoked a stronger infiltration of neutrophils and macrophages than polystyrene microspheres did. Our study shows the potential usefulness of zebrafish embryos for in vivo evaluation of biomaterial-associated inflammatory cell responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2522-2532
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of biomedical materials research. Part A
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • biomaterial microspheres
  • early inflammatory cell responses
  • in vivo imaging
  • material properties
  • zebrafish embryo


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