Testing drugs on real breathing lungs can be difficult and expensive when dealing with live animals. To overcome this, researchers have been looking for a viable way to grow lung cells externally and a team from Cardiff University seem to have come up with a “lung-on-a-chip” solution.
The New Scientist reports:
Cell biologist Kelly BéruBé at the University of Cardiff, UK, has managed to grow human lung cells into flat differentiated layers that resemble the inner lining of the lungs. Her method is already being used for drug testing by companies such as Unilever and AstraZeneca. But when allowed to grow in three dimensions, as in the body, cells arrange themselves very differently, and this can change how they respond to chemical stimuli. "We need to move from something flat to 3D structures," says BéruBé.
A popular approach is to seed plastic scaffolds with stem cells to grow artificial "organs", but BéruBé and her colleagues have found an alternative which could allow thousands of drugs to be screened at once.
Instead of large scaffolds, BéruBé has grown lung cells on the surface of plastic spheres half a millimetre in diameter, essentially producing a tiny inside-out lung around each bead.
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