AbstractDegradable magnesium alloys for biomedical application are on the verge of being used clinically. Rare earth elements (REEs) are used to improve the mechanical properties of the alloys, but in more or less undefined mixtures. For some elements of this group, data on toxicity and influence on cells are sparse. Therefore in this study the in vitro cytotoxicity of the elements yttrium (Y), neodymium (Nd), dysprosium (Dy), praseodymium (Pr), gadolinium (Gd), lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), europium (Eu), lithium (Li) and zirconium (Zr) was evaluated by incubation with the chlorides (10–2000 μM); magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) were tested at higher concentrations (200 and 50 mM, respectively). The influence on viability of human osteosarcoma cell line MG63, human umbilical cord perivascular (HUCPV) cells and mouse macrophages (RAW 264.7) was determined, as well as the induction of apoptosis and the expression of inflammatory factors (TNF-α, IL-1α). Significant differences between the applied cells could be observed. RAW exhibited the highest and HUCPV the lowest sensitivity. La and Ce showed the highest cytotoxicity of the analysed elements. Of the elements with high solubility in magnesium alloys, Gd and Dy seem to be more suitable than Y. The focus of magnesium alloy development for biomedical applications should include most defined alloy compositions with well-known tissue-specific and systemic effects.