Aid for the airways

A new ‘artificial’ airway is being developed at Southampton University and NC3Rs that could lead to better therapies for asthma and allergy sufferers.

A new ‘artificial’ airway is being developed that could lead to better therapies for asthma and allergy sufferers and reduce the need for animal testing.

Academics at Southampton University are working with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) on the project.

The airways, which are being developed over the next two and a half years, will be made using tissue engineering. Layers of the cells that make up the airway tissue will be grown inside a micro-fluidic device. The cells will be grown on a tiny membrane that will allow access to both sides (the air and blood) of the cells. The device will allow researchers to fully understand how lung function is affected by air particles and allergens and to test their effects without animal testing.

‘This new model will allow us to measure the transport of materials and the challenges the airways are presented with,’ said Professor Hywel Morgan from Southampton University’s School of Electronics and Computer Science.

The new Mountbatten Building at the university, due for completion later this year, will make it possible to develop the microfluidic devices needed to take this research forward.