Harvard’s Wyss Institute is researching the coughing and lung infections that plague smokers. Rather than using the usual testing of hot boxing rats this lab has a much cooler setup. Their kit makes use of a chain smoking robot combined with a lung on a chip. Here is what scientists have observed:
“First of all, we were able to show that the chips that were lined by cells from COPD patients showed a much bigger inflammatory response to the cigarette smoke exposure than normal, which is consistent with cigarette exposure bringing a COPD patient to the emergency room,”
Because the researchers can see right into the chip, they can observe the beating cilia moving the mucus around. They found that smoke makes these cilia freak out a bit, beating at irregular intervals instead of their standard, uniform rate. “The cigarette smoke essentially interferes with their oriented cleansing motion, so you get distorted motion,” says Ingber, “and that’s probably why people who smoke are coughing and have more mucus.”
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