## Unraveling Radiation-Induced Lung Damage with a Lung Chip
Scientists at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have achieved a significant milestone in understanding radiation-induced lung injury. They’ve created a microfluidic chip that can replicate some aspects of this kind of lung damage. This invention could prove crucial in creating new ways to prevent and treat radiation-induced lung injury, a condition that has been difficult to study until now.
The Lungs’ Vulnerability to Radiation
The lungs are highly susceptible to radiation. Considerable exposure can lead to radiation-induced lung injury, marked by ongoing inflammation and fibrosis, which can compromise lung function. This condition can affect nuclear accident survivors who may have breathed in polluted particles. It can also impact patients receiving radiotherapy for cancer treatment, where controlling the dosage is necessary to prevent significant lung damage.
Comprehending why the lungs are so vulnerable to radiation and devising new treatments could bring hope for these patients. However, studying this phenomenon has been difficult due to its complexity and patient variability. Animal models of the condition do not usually reproduce its intricate presentation and pose serious ethical issues.
The Lung Chip: An Innovative Method
To overcome these obstacles, the researchers have crafted an advanced in vitro system that can imitate some aspects of radiation-induced lung damage. The system is a microfluidic chip containing human lung alveolar epithelial cells in one channel and lung capillary endothelial cells in another channel. These two channels are divided by a semi-permeable membrane.
The epithelial cells are exposed to air, much like in the lung, while the endothelial cells are exposed to a nutrient medium acting as a blood substitute. This medium also houses immune cells, which have a significant part in radiation-induced injury. The chip can be subjected to clinically relevant radiation doses, and the cellular reactions can then be assessed.
Measuring DNA Damage
The team measured the emergence of so-called “DNA damage foci” produced by the repair protein p53. Each visible speck signifies one such foci, and the number of specks in both epithelial and endothelial cells rises with the radiation dose applied to the alveolar-capillary interface on the chips.
The creation of this Lung Chip model to replicate radiation-induced lung damage injury utilizes the team’s extensive microfluidic Organ Chip culture knowledge. Combined with new analytical and computational drug and biomarker discovery tools, it provides profound new insights into this issue.
The creation of the lung chip by researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University symbolizes a substantial advancement in understanding and treating radiation-induced lung injury. This groundbreaking approach could result in new prevention and treatment strategies for this complicated condition, offering hope for patients impacted by radiation exposure.
Questions and Answers
Q1: Can you explain radiation-induced lung injury?
A1: Radiation-induced lung injury is a condition marked by ongoing inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs due to significant radiation exposure.
Q2: What makes studying radiation-induced lung injury challenging?
A2: This condition is complex and can differ greatly among patients based on different risk factors. Animal models of the condition do not usually reproduce its intricate presentation and pose serious ethical issues.
Q3: Can you describe how the lung chip functions?
A3: The lung chip is an advanced microfluidic culture system that houses human lung alveolar epithelial cells in one channel and lung capillary endothelial cells in another. The chip can be subjected to clinically relevant radiation doses, and the cellular reactions can then be evaluated.
Q4: What advantages can this research offer?
A4: This research could lead to a better comprehension of why the lungs are so vulnerable to radiation. It could also assist in developing new treatments for radiation-induced lung injury, providing hope for patients impacted by radiation exposure.