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‘Lung on a chip’: the solution for testing lung-medicine?

We depend on oxygen to enjoy a good quality of life, but what if your lungs are damaged in such a way that you can only walk a few meters, before you need to catch your breath again? The thought of it is already exhausting. Scientists from three different Dutch universities hope to test medicine on a chip in the future, by researching the possibility to create lung tissue inside a tiny synthetic device. This futuristic sounding concept might offer a solution for the repair of damaged lungs.

‘By growing living lung cells inside a chip, you have a small piece of living tissue to your disposal.’

A chip is mostly referred to computers, but it is not only valuable to allow you to read your email or BELUNG magazine. It may also be of great importance for medical research purposes, according to one of the Dutch scientists Andre Poot: ‘By growing living lung cells inside a chip, you have a small piece of living tissue to your disposal. One day, it might offer possibilities to test medicine to repair damaged lungs.’

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The four inches long device was already used in the past to study lung function as the chip acts as an air sac that replaces carbon dioxide for oxygen. However, those devices were inappropriate to anatomically mimic an air sac, as a lot of flat tissue was applied on the chip. To copy a lung cell properly, Poot and colleagues designed cells with a globular membrane, like real air sacs, that allow scientists to study lung-processes even better.

The ‘lung on a chip’ concept is meant to test new medicines. By studying the activity of the lung cells inside the tiny device when drugs are applied, the researchers expect to determine the reaction of human alveoli to new medicines that have to repair lung damage.

The researchers aim to create a ‘lung on a chip’ within four years. The first steps are already executed, says Poot. ‘The lung cells have to grow in vitro first, after that we can apply the alveoli in a chip.’ Poot and colleagues hope to develop a simple, personalized device for every lung patient in the future. 

‘That way, by using a patients own cells on a chip, you can predict any reaction of new medicines more accurate, without applying the drugs immediately in the patients body.’

Reference:
Het Longfonds, a Dutch organization for lung conditions.
https://www.longfonds.nl/lopende-onderzoeken/long-op-een-chip


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