The most common primary cells used in research

Human primary cells are isolated directly from human tissues and maintain the physiological characteristics of their original tissue. This article discusses the most common primary cells used by scientists (1,2).

Endothelial cells

In the human body, endothelial cells form a single-cell thick-walled layer called the endothelium which lines the blood vessels. Human primary endothelial cells are present in the coronary artery, pulmonary artery, lung microvascular, human umbilical vein, and iliac artery.

These cells are cultivated to study angiogenesis and wound healing as well as in drug screening and in the investigation of anti-cancer therapies ,.


Keratinocytes represent the most abundant cell type of the epidermis and originate in the stratum basal, moving up to the ultimate barrier layer of the skin, the stratum corneum.

Primary keratinocyte cultures are used in toxicology studies and cancer research, in particular in the context of skin cancer and psoriasis.

Epithelial cells

Primary epithelial cells are isolated from lung and renal tissues. These cells are valuable in cancer research and toxicology.


Melanocytes are specialized melanin-producing skin cells, located in the stratum basal. Melanin provides pigmentation to the skin, hair, and eyes. It also protects the skin cells from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

These cells are useful as models in melanoma studies, to investigate dermal response to UV rays, and in cosmetic research.


Fibroblasts play an important role in producing and maintaining the extracellular matrix. Primary fibroblasts are utilized in research related to tissue engineering and wound healing.

Immune cells

A strong immune system is important for maintaining health and that’s why our immune system consists of various immune cells which protect the body from pathogens. Primary immune cells include peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and are important to test cell-based assays.

Stem cells

Primary stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can potentially give rise to cells with more specialized functions, such as brain or muscle cells. Because of their proliferation and differentiation capacity, stem cells offer new potential to model different disease conditions.


1. Yamane I. [Primary cultures of various differentiated human cells and their transfer]. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho. 1987 Jan;14(1):211-9. Japanese. PMID: 3800406.