Tiny Device Mimics Human Lung Function
22
October

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , /


Narrator: Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a miniature, tissue-engineered artificial lung that mimics the response of
the human lung to drugs, toxins and other agents. Jennifer Harris: We breathe in and
out thousands of times every day. And while we have control over what we eat or drink,
we don’t always have control over what we breathe in, and so we’re making this miniature
lung to be able to test on actual human cells whether something in the environment, or a drug, is toxic or harmful to us. Narrator: Nicknamed “PuLMo” for Pulmonary Lung Model, the device consists of two major parts, the bronchiole unit and the alveoli unit – just
like the human lung. The units are connected by a microfluidic “circuit board” that
manages fluid and air flow. Pulak Nath: When we build our lung, we not
only take into account the aspect of different cell types, the tissue that are involved,
that are present in our body, in that particular organ, we also take into account – a lung
is supposed to breathe, so our lung actually breathes. Narrator: The most exciting application
of PuLMo is a revolutionary improvement in the reliability of drug-toxicity assessments and the prediction of new pharmaceutical success in humans. Harris: Historically, drug trials have been done in many different types of animals, some of them have passed animal trials and … in human trials they’ve failed or even killed people. Nath: Pretty much anything
our lung gets exposed to over the course of years, we can try to recapitulate that outside,
and learn from them, so this could be a very good understanding, scientific understanding tool, too. Narrator: The PuLMO device can also mimic lung disease conditions, like Chronic Obstructive
Pulmonary Disease and asthma, and be used to study lung air-flow dynamics to better
understand the mechanisms of toxins and drug delivery, and the effects of smoking, particularly
the less understood effects of e-cigarettes. Nath: It has been an extremely exciting project, every day we are facing new challenges, every day were coming up with new solutions to address those challenges. Narrator: This game-changing technology could one day supersede the use of animals in testing pharmaceuticals and can minimize risk in clinical trials. It could also work as an early warning device to detect bio- or chemical-threat agents. Nothing yet
comes closer to mimicking the human lung than the PuLMo miniature, tissue-engineered lung
platform.


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