Researchers Using Organ-On-A-Chip Technology to Study Lung Disease

Dec. 23, 2015
A research team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University is using its organ-on-a-chip technology to create models of the human small airway to study chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

A research team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University is using its organ-on-a-chip technology to create models of the human small airway to study chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

The platform allows researchers to study lung inflammatory diseases outside the human body and gain new insights into the disease mechanisms, identify novel biomarkers and test new drug candidates, the research team stated in an announcement.

Donald Ingber, M.D., the senior author on the project, said the research scientists created a new microfluidic model of the lung small airway that recapitulates critical features of asthma and COPD and this enables scientists to study lung inflammatory diseases over several weeks in chips lined by cells from both normal donors and diseased patients to gain better insight into disease mechanisms.

The research team provided proof-of-principle that the synthetic small airway-on-a-chip can be utilized as a discovery platform for disease-specific drugs and biomarkers.

Researchers collaborated with two different industrial partners — Pfizer and Merck Research Laboratories — who also helped fund the project along. With this collaboration along with support from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the Wyss researchers showed that two drugs targeting different key molecular components of inflammatory pathways can potently suppress pathological processes in asthma and COPD-tailored small airway chips.

“This novel ability to build small airway chips with cells from individual patients with diseases like COPD positions us and others now to investigate the effects of genetic variability, specific immune cell populations, pharmaceutical candidates and even pandemic viruses in an entirely new and more personalized way; one that will hopefully increase the likelihood of success of future therapeutics,
 Ingber said.

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