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Researchers develop living, breathing human lung-on-a-chip
Date:6/24/2010

cells, a permeable extracellular matrix and capillary blood vessel cellsthat does the lung's heavy lifting. What's more, this lung-blood interface recognizes invaders such as inhaled bacteria or toxins and activates an immune response.

The lung-on-a-chip microdevice takes a new approach to tissue engineering by placing two layers of living tissuesthe lining of the lung's air sacs and the blood vessels that surround themacross a porous, flexible boundary. Air is delivered to the lung lining cells, a rich culture medium flows in the capillary channel to mimic blood and cyclic mechanical stretching mimics breathing. The device was created using a novel microfabrication strategy that uses clear rubbery materials. The strategy was pioneered by another Wyss core faculty member, George Whitesides, the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University.

"We were inspired by how breathing works in the human lung through the creation of a vacuum that is created when our chest expands, which sucks air into the lung and causes the air sac walls to stretch," says first author Dan Huh, a Wyss technology development fellow at the Institute. "Our use of a vacuum to mimic this in our microengineered system was based on design principles from nature."

To determine how well the device replicates the natural responses of living lungs to stimuli, the researchers tested its response to inhaled living E. coli bacteria. They introduced bacteria into the air channel on the lung side of the device and at the same time flowed white blood cells through the channel on the blood vessel side. The lung cells detected the bacteria and, through the porous membrane, activated the blood vessel cells, which in turn triggered an immune response that ultimately caused the white blood cells to move to the air chamber and destroy the bacteria.

"The ability to recreate realistically both the mechanical and biological sides of the in vivo coin i
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Contact: David Cameron
david_cameron@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0441
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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