Heike Walles, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Stuttgart, Germany, and colleagues of the Regenerative Technologies for Oncology project group have created a miniature human lung. It has a volume of 0.5 cm³. A bioreactor is used to make it breathe and to pump a nutrient medium through its blood vessels. The reactor also makes it possible to regulate factors such as how fast and deeply the model lung breathes.
The team is exploring to which extend their artificial lung can be used to test new therapeutic agents. In long-term, it may be possible to create an individual model lung for each patient. The required lung cells to build the model lung can be collected as part of the biopsy performed to allow doctors to analyze the patient’s tumor.
Moreover, the 3D lung tissue makes metastases analysis possible. To travel through the body, tumor cells alter their surface markers so that cancer cells can spread throughout the body via the body’s circulatory system before taking up residence somewhere else by expressing their original surface markers. The artificial circulatory system of the model lung should allow studying exactly how this transformation occurs.
- Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Munich, Germany