Researchers have used “organ on a chip” technology to develop a model of a human’s small airway to study COPD and asthma outside the human body.

The researchers noted that COPD and lung inflammatory diseases are the third leading cause of mortality worldwide, and by studying these cases outside the body, they are able to gain new insights into the disease mechanisms, identify biomarkers, and test new drug therapies.

The investigators added that even though the disease is known to affect the alveoli, exactly how the inflammation impacts the pathological processes like the circulation of white blood cells or how exacerbations are triggered.

“Inspired by our past work using the organ on a chip approach to model the lung alveolus, we created a new microfluidic model of the lung small airway that recapitulates critical features of asthma and COPD with unprecedented fidelity and detail,” senior author Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, explained in a press release. “Now with this micro-engineered human lung small airway, we can 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, as well as screen for new therapeutics.”

According to the statement, one of the reasons this technology is so valuable is that these types of diseases cannot be studied in human or animal patients and no effective therapies exist to reverse or curb the effects of the diseases.

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