The Lung Regeneration Technologies (LRT) Group, established in November 2010, is a collaborative effort between the ARTORG Center, the Division of Pulmonary Medicine and the Clinic for Thoracic Surgery both from the University Hospital (Inselspital) of Bern and the Nanomedicine Division of the CSEM SA (Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology).
The objectives of the Lung Regeneration Technologies Laboratory are to develop advanced in-vitro models, based on microfluidics, able to recreate in-vivo-like conditions of the lung, including the complexity of the alveolar-capillary barrier, the gas exchanges and the mechanical stimulation of the respiratory movements of the lung.
Microfluidic devices, which are fabricated based on microfabrication techniques similar to those used by the micro-electronic industries, offer structures with length scales that are comparable to the intrinsic dimensions of mammalian cells. The diameters of these microfluidic structures, such as microchannels or microwells, are typically the size of a human air (50 to 150um), in which cells are cultured. Such microsystems have the capability to accurately control the cell microenvironment, for example by perfusing the cells to reproduce the shear stress created by the blood perfusion or by recreating the extracellular milieu by micropatterning surfaces for selective surface adhesion. They are becoming competitive tools for in-vitro cell culture and promising alternatives to animal studies.
Such microfluidic devices will particularly be devoted to investigate the pathophysiology of different lung diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis or lung cancer. In the future, such bioartificial lung-on chip systems are deemed to be extremely important for the understanding of fundamental cellular or molecular mechanisms that take place in the lung and are also intended to be implemented for personalised medicine approach where the number of cells is limited.