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Lab-made lungs fast-track drug testing, can replace animal test subjects

Date: 3.5.2023 

Researchers have built a lung in a lab that more accurately emulates the human lung than traditional models, opening the door to the fast-tracking of the discovery and development of drugs and a reduction in our reliance on animals for testing.

Kredit: Phan et al./University of Sydney.Lung diseases are a leading cause of death globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, will become the third leading cause of death by 2030 due to worsening air quality and the after-effects of COVID-19.

Traditionally, developing and testing new drugs for COPD requires animal models. The problem with using animals for testing is that some aspects of their anatomy and physiology differ from that of humans, and many animal models don’t allow for the testing of aerosol drugs.

Team led by researchers from the University of Sydney has built lungs that more accurately emulate the human lung. “With a traditional cell culture, you put cells into a Petri dish and culture them in static conditions, which is far from what happens in a human body,” said Thanh Huyen Phan, lead author of the study.

“What we are doing is creating environmental conditions similar to those which exist in the human body.” Taking cells directly from a patient, the researchers arranged them in layers, just as they appear in the body.

Lung models can be used for more than just drug testing. “These mini-lung organoid models can also be used to test toxicity,” Chrzanowski said. “For example, of silica dust or air pollutants, such as particulates generated during bushfires."

Image source: Phan et al./University of Sydney.





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