“Small airway-on-a-chip” enables in vitro research on human lung inflammation and drug responses

A human lung 'small airway-on-a-chip' was developed at Harvard University with sponsorship by Pfizer and Merck.

The chip contained a differentiated, mucociliary bronchiolar epithelium and an underlying microvascular endothelium that experiences fluid flow, which allows for analysis of organ-level lung pathophysiology in vitro. After the normal physiology was established in the chip, the researchers induced a pathology: exposure to interleukin-13 (IL-13) reconstituted the goblet cell hyperplasia, cytokine hypersecretion and decreased ciliary function of asthmatics.

Small airway chips lined with epithelial cells from individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) recapitulated features of the disease such as selective cytokine hypersecretion, increased neutrophil recruitment and clinical exacerbation by exposure to viral and bacterial infections.

With this in vitro method for modeling human lung inflammatory disorders, it would be feasible to:

- detect synergistic effects of lung endothelium and epithelium on cytokine secretion
- identify new biomarkers of disease exacerbation
- measure responses to anti-inflammatory compounds

Small airway-on-a-chip enables analysis of human lung inflammation and drug responses in vitro. Benam KH et al. Nat Methods. 2015 Dec 21. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3697. [Epub ahead of print]

The World Allergy Organization (WAO) Small Airways Working Group publishes a monthly "What's New?" summary and I have served as its editor since 2011. The summary features the top 3 asthma/small airways articles each month. The article above is a part of the project. The archive is here: http://www.worldallergy.org/small_airways_group/reviews/archive.php

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