The Wyss Institute’s human breathing lung-on-a-chip, made using human lung and blood vessel cells, acts much like a lung in a human body. A vacuum re-creates the way the lungs physically expand and contract during breathing. As reported in Science Translational Medicine on November 7, 2012, Wyss researchers have now mimicked a human disease – pulmonary edema — on the chip. They applied the cancer drug IL-2, which is known to cause pulmonary edema as a side effect. Pulmonary edema is a potentially fatal condition in which fluid leaks from the bloodstream into the lungs. The researchers first applied IL-2 without the vacuum on, and leakage was evident. When they turned the vacuum on to mimic breathing, however, the fluid leakage was worse – adding new insight to what scientists understand about this life-threatening condition.
Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University