Human monocyte-derived microglia-like cell models: a review of the benefits, limitations and recommendations

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In the last few decades, mounting evidence has highlighted that microglia have crucial roles in both health and disease. This has led to a growing interest in studying human microglia in disease-relevant models. However, current models present limitations that can make them unsuitable for moderate throughput studies in human cohorts. Primary human microglia are ethically and technically difficult to obtain and only allow low throughput studies; immortalized cell lines have been shown to differ too greatly from primary human microglia; and induced pluripotent stem cell-derived microglia, although physiologically relevant in most contexts, have limited potential for use in large cohorts of people or for personalised drug screening. In this review, we discuss monocyte-derived microglia-like (MDMi) cells, a model that has been developed and increasingly used in the last decade, using human monocytes isolated from blood samples. We describe the variety of protocols that have been used to develop MDMi cell models and highlight a need for standardization across protocols. We then summarize data that validate MDMi cells as an appropriate model to study human microglia in health and disease. We also present the benefits and limitations of using this approach to study human microglia compared with other microglial models, when used in combination with the relevant downstream applications and with cross-validation of findings in other systems. Finally, we summarize the paradigms in which MDMi models have been used to advance research on microglia in immune-related disease. This review is an important reference for scientists who seek to establish MDMi cells as a microglial model for the advancement of our understanding of microglia in human health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-109
Number of pages12
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jan 2023


  • Human-derived models
  • In vitro models
  • MDMi
  • Microglia
  • Monocyte-derived microglia-like cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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