CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Emulate Inc. announced today that it has developed a new living human Lung-Chip system that accurately recreates the unique structure and function of the human lung small airways within micro engineered chips—as reported today in the journal Nature Methods. The results demonstrate that the Small Airway Lung-Chip can model complex tissue functions of the lung within the microengineered chips to enable a human model of lung inflammatory disorders, specifically asthma and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD), and more effectively predict human response to anti-inflammatory drugs, compared to existing animal models.
The publication in Nature Methods, entitled “A microfluidic lung small airway-on-a-chip enables analysis of human lung inflammation and therapeutic responses in vitro,” includes collaborative research by Emulate, Inc., the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and pharmaceutical collaborators at Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Pfizer, Inc. This collaborative research with the Small Airway Lung-Chip has enabled greater mechanistic insight into the physiology and disease states of the lung and created a model to better understand human respiratory diseases, identify potential new therapeutic targets, and test the safety and efficacy of new drugs. In addition, these studies showed the ability to either develop a disease phenotype in the chips from normal cells or maintain a phenotype of disease in cells acquired from diseased patients. The data also demonstrated that pharmacological interventions with a glucocorticosteroid in the Small Airway Lung-Chip mirrored the clinical experiences with this class of drugs.
“In advancing the capabilities of the Lung-Chip technology, we addressed the distinct biology of the small airway in order to more accurately model and predict human response for airway inflammation and respiratory diseases,” said Remi Villenave, Ph.D., a lead author of the Nature Methods publication and Principal Investigator at Emulate. “We have now demonstrated that our Small Airway Lung-Chip recreates human lung inflammation and can predict responses to drugs targeting small airway diseases. This opens up new opportunities for answering questions earlier and more accurately in the drug development process and furthering our understanding of human pulmonary diseases.”
“The Small Airway Lung-Chip offers a new and potentially superior model system for research into asthma and COPD by recreating, in vitro, the physiology and key functions of human airways in two respiratory diseases that represent major public health challenges,” said Michael Salmon, Ph.D., principal scientist, Immunology at Merck. “The potential for Organs-on-Chips technology to provide more relevant and predictive human models of disease supports industry-wide efforts to refine new drug development in ways that increase the probability of success for new drug candidates and reduce the need for animal-based research models.”
Respiratory diseases frequently involve obstruction and inflammation of the small airways in the lung specifically in diseases such as asthma and COPD1. Current animal models are limited in their relevance to humans in that their physiology is distinctively different from the human, and the mechanisms driving key disease process such as inflammation show marked species differences.2 The study published in Nature Methods, provides evidence that the Small Airway Lung-Chip recreated the complexity of function required to accurately model the human lung and recreated key aspects of the pathophysiology of asthma and COPD, including inflammatory cellular infiltration, goblet cell hyperplasia, and cytokine hypersecretion. Emulate’s new Small Airway Lung-Chip provides an authentic and more predictive approach to understanding human pulmonary biology and to designing therapeutics for the treatment chronic respiratory diseases.