The blood-air barrier is a thin layer that separates the air-filled space of the alveoli in the lungs from the blood in the capillaries. Not only does life-sustaining oxygen enter the body through the lungs in this way, but drugs also enter the bloodstream.
To gain a deeper understanding of these transportation pathways, researchers from the University of Berne and the University Hospital of Berne, together with colleagues from the Infection Research Unit of the Helmholz Center in Munich, have developed an enhanced model of what is known as a lung-on-a-chip.
Breathing cell cluster
Their solution is based on a stretchable membrane made of collagen and elastin that replicates a cluster of tiny alveoli, which can be cultured either from healthy or diseased cells. The elasticity of the membrane makes it possible to simulate respiratory movements by mechanically stretching the cells, Pauline Zamprogno from the University of Berne was quoted as saying.
Together with her team, she now wants to continue their research in order to model a mini-lung with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This chronic disease leads to progressive scarring of the lung tissue.
The researchers hope that in future their system will help reduce animal testing, develop new therapies, and determine tailor-made treatments for patients.
Written by: sda
Photos: Adrian Moser