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Artificial lung an alternative test-bed?

2 July 2010

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Category: Animal welfare & alternatives

artificial–lung.jpgA functional artificial lung on a chip, which mimics the behavour of mouse lungs, has been created.

The artificial lung mimics the boundary between the lung’s air sacs – where gaseous exchange takes place – and tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Scientists designed the lung to have two layers of human cells divided by a porous barrier. The upper layer has air sacs – alveoli cells – while the bottom contains capillary cells to mimic the vessels which carry the oxygen rich blood away.

Breathing by the lung chip is achieved by a change in air pressure and the elasticity of the cells in response to the change. Researchers found that the lung could breathe in real time like a real mouse lung.

The team tested and compared the artificial lungs with mouse lungs. Using silica nano-particles, they found both types of lungs displayed an identical uptake response.

As the lung on a chip is transparent it would be valuable for future studies on pathogen inhalation, to study inflammation. But it is not yet developed enough to replace animal lung studies altogether. Researchers need cells which are more similar to those taken from patients, than cells from lines which have been grown in the lab.