Pharmaceutical applications of the Calu-3 lung epithelia cell line

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Introduction: The Calu-3 lung cell line has been shown to be a promising in vitro model of airway epithelia due to its similarity to in vivo physiology. Hence, over the past decade, it has found increasing applications in the pharmaceutical industry.

Areas covered: This review focuses on the pharmaceutical applications of the Calu-3 cell line in areas such as mechanisms of drug transport, studying aerosol deposition, controlled release studies and identification of possible drug–drug interactions. The main findings of various studies, as well as the predictive potential of this model, are presented and discussed in this review.

Expert opinion: There is still a lack of mechanistic knowledge regarding transport of inhaled therapeutics across the lungs. Cell culture models such as Calu-3 provide a simple and reproducible system to study the underlying mechanisms by which inhaled therapeutics interact with the lungs. However, more complex systems that integrate particle deposition onto different cell culture systems may be useful in addressing some fundamental questions to generate a better understanding of determinants that influences pulmonary drug dissolution, absorption, metabolism and efficacy. Ultimately the use of the Calu-3 cell line provides a basic research tool that enables the development of safer and more effective inhaled therapeutics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1287-1302
Number of pages16
JournalExpert Opinion on Drug Delivery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Calu-3
  • drug deposition
  • drug transport
  • metabolism
  • pulmonary delivery


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