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Biologically Inspired Engineering: A Human Breath Lung-on-a-Chip

Donald E. Ingber

Founding Director, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology, Harvard Medical School & Children's Hospital Boston
Professor of Bioengineering, Harvard School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

ABSTRACT: Drug development and toxicology currently rely on costly and time-consuming animal testing because cell culture models do not recapitulate the functional, structural, and mechanical complexity of living organs. We recently developed a biomimetic microsystem that reconstitutes the critical functional alveolar-capillary interface of the human lung and exposes it to cyclic mechanical strain and fluid dynamic forces that mimic breathing and blood flow. This bioinspired microdevice reproduces complex integrated organ-level responses to bacteria and inflammatory cytokines introduced into the alveolar space, and reveals novel toxic responses to airborne nanoparticles. Mechanically active biomimetic microsystems that reconstitute human tissue-tissue interfaces critical to whole organ function represent valuable new model systems for in vitro biological analysis, in addition to providing low-cost alternatives to animal and clinical studies for drug screening and toxicology applications.