Ex vivo dendritic cell generation-A critical comparison of current approaches

Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2019:349:251-307. doi: 10.1016/bs.ircmb.2019.10.003. Epub 2019 Nov 15.


Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen-presenting cells, required for the initiation of naïve and memory T cell responses and regulation of adaptive immunity. The discovery of DCs in 1973, which culminated in the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2011 for Ralph Steinman and colleagues, initially focused on the identification of adherent mononuclear cell fractions with uniquely stellate dendritic morphology, followed by key discoveries of their critical immunologic role in initiating and maintaining antigen-specific immunity and tolerance. The medical promise of marshaling these key capabilities of DCs for therapeutic modulation of antigen-specific immune responses has guided decades of research in hopes to achieve genuine physiologic partnership with the immune system. The potential uses of DCs in immunotherapeutic applications include cancer, infectious diseases, and autoimmune disorders; thus, methods for rapid and reliable large-scale production of DCs have been of great academic and clinical interest. However, difficulties in obtaining DCs from lymphoid and peripheral tissues, low numbers and poor survival in culture, have led to advancements in ex vivo production of DCs, both for probing molecular details of DC function as well as for experimenting with their clinical utility. Here, we review the development of a diverse array of DC production methodologies, ranging from cytokine-based strategies to genetic engineering tools devised for enhancing DC-specific immunologic functions. Further, we explore the current state of DC therapies in clinic, as well as emerging insights into physiologic production of DCs inspired by existing therapies.

Keywords: Clinical trials; Cytokine; Dendritic cell; Ex vivo production; Extracorporeal photopheresis; Genetic engineering; Immunotherapy; Physiologic generation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Vaccines / immunology


  • Vaccines