The ultrastructure of granulocyte colonies derived from normal human peripheral blood leukocytes cultured in semisolid media has been studied by a new method developed for this purpose. Fixation, dehydration, and embedding of the whole content of the Petri dish resulted in a block of Epon containing colonies made up of cells with the spatial orientation of those observed in living cultures. This permitted serial sectioning through entire colonies. Cell maturation in vitro appeared to parallel that of normal marrow. However, even the most mature cells retained cytoplasmic characteristics of more immature cells. This was particularly true for eosinophils which only rarely possessed granules with electron-dense crystalline "cores," a feature typical for mature eosinophils. In addition to the normal-appearing hematopoietic cells found within colonies, very large round or spindle-shaped cells were present between colonies and firmly attached to the bottom of the culture dish. Although the histochemical and functional characterization of these cells awaits further study, it is suggested that they are related to histiocytes or macrophages.
The technique described here should prove valuable in studies of the development, differentiation, and interaction of many types of cells.