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Small Airway-on-a-Chip: Modeling COPD and Asthma


Development of new therapeutics for chronic lung diseases have been hindered by the inability to study them in vitro. To address this challenge, Wyss Institute researchers used their Organ-on-a-Chip technology to produce a microfluidic ‘human lung small airway-on-a-chip.’

The device, which is composed a clear rubber material, is lined by living Human lung small airway cells on one side and capillary blood vessel cells on the other, much like in the living lung. In the device, air flows over the top of the human lung cells and liquid medium containing white blood cells flow below capillary cell layer.

In the airway chip, the lung cells have hair-like cilia that move rhythmically, helping the mucus flow out of the lung chip, just as they do in the living lung.

Wyss researchers also have been able to line the chip with diseased cells from COPD patients, and these chips retain the features of patients’ lungs with this disease, including an increased ability to become inflamed when exposed to viral or bacterial pathogens. And when inflammation is triggered in the chip, white blood cells flowing in the blood channel are stimulated to adhere to inflamed capillary blood vessel wall, as they do in our bodies.

Using this disease model, researchers have identified new lung disease biomarkers, and demonstrated that the model can be used to test for new drugs for COPD as well as asthma.

Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

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