A doctoral candidate at the University of Bern in Switzerland has devised a next-generation “lung on chip” design that will allow researchers to test a broad array of new respiratory treatments on living tissue before testing on human patients.
“Organs on a Chip”, or OOC, technology has been around for more than a decade, and is increasingly used in clinical testing in lieu of animal testing. An FDA flyer describing OOC technology says, “The chips are lined with living human cells and their tiny fluidic channels reproduce blood and/or air flow just as in the human body. Their flexibility allows the chips to recreate breathing motions, or undergo muscle contractions.” The flyer further explains that “The chip’s transparency allows researchers to see the organ’s functionality, behavior, and response, at the cellular and molecular level.”
Each OOC unit is about the size of a AA battery.
The graduate student who led design on the next-gen lung OOC, Pauline Zamprogno, described her technology in a press release: “The new lung-on-chip reproduces an array of alveoli with in vivo like dimensions. It is based on a thin, stretchable membrane, made with molecules naturally found in the lung: collagen and elastin. The membrane is stable, can be cultured on both sides for weeks, is biodegradable and its elastic properties allow mimicking respiratory motions by mechanically stretching the cells.”
Depending on the type of research being conducted, the chip could receive “seeding” cells from either healthy or diseased lungs. The first batch of chips were seeded with tissue from cancer patients at the Inselspital Department of Thoracic Surgery in Bern. Ralph Schmid, head of the department, said in a university statement that lung OOC testing could open the door to personalized treatment. By seeding an OOC with a patient’s own lung tissue from biopsy, physicians could test a variety of treatments in a lab setting to help determine the most effective approach for that particular patient.
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