Until now, researching the effects of air pollution on the respiratory system has been difficult because lung tissue is so complex. Until now, researching the effects of air pollution on the respiratory system has been difficult because lung tissue is so complex. Until now, researching the effects of air pollution on the respiratory system has been difficult because lung tissue is so complex. (Photo: Sciencepics /Shutterstock)

These scientists just created a life-size artificial lung

This new tool could help researchers understand the effects of air pollution, and even lead to the creation of other artificial organs in the future.

Throughout our normal daily life, we often inhale tiny air particles without even knowing it. And it can put a huge strain on our health.

But now, a group of researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology may have something that can help. The team has developed a life-size artificial lung to better understand how these tiny particles, also known as aerosols, impact human health. This new tool could one day lead to better drugs for the respiratory system. News of the new lung was recently published in Scientific Reports.

The walls of the artificial lung expand and contract just like an actual human lung, offering a real-time look at how air pollution particles move and behave in the alveolar tissue, which is the deepest part of the respiratory system.

“The model consists of technologies similar to those used to manufacture computer chips, and comprises a branched network of minute air ducts approximately one-tenth of a millimeter wide,” lung designer and builder Dr. Rami Fishler said in a press release.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution accounts for one in eight deaths annually.According to the World Health Organization, air pollution accounts for one in eight deaths annually. (Photo: Tatiana Grozetskaya/Shutterstock)

Researchers have long struggled with how to monitor the movement of aerosols in the respiratory system, partly because of their small size and because the lung tissue is so complex.

This new artificial lung system allows doctors to observe both the bad particles – air pollution – and the good particles administered as medicine. This model could also curtail the need for animal testing.

“This is the first diagnostic tool that enables quantitative monitoring of the dynamics of aerosols at such small scales,” said lead researcher Professor Josué Sznitman.

Globally, the World Health Organization says that air pollution is responsible for one in eight deaths each year. According to another agency, air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, accounting for over 430,000 premature deaths in 2012 alone. This new tool will not only make researching air pollution and its effects on the lungs easier, it could also serve as a catalyst for the creation of other artificial organs in the future.

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