Sensors for lung
One intrinsic problem in the study of pathogenetic mechanisms of lung diseases is the close anatomical and functional integration within a dichotomously separated fractal tree. With 23 branches from the trachea to the alveoli, the latter have a diameter of only about 50-200μm, which is less than a human hair. Therefore, the direct instrumental access with sensors via the airways is not possible.
Cell cultures of the air-liquid interface (ALI) or system models such as the Lung-on-a-chip allow to analyze functions of both the alveoli as well as the afferent airways (secretion, transport, et.). The measurement of the distribution of gaseous signaling molecules (as H2S) or the measurement of respiratory mechanics consequently yield – in correlation with findings from studies on the epithelium – to an overall understanding of lung physiology.
Innovative sensor Technology
Many studies on in vitro models are nowadays only possible by destroying or strongly influencing the lung-specific ALI. On the other hand, new methods could enable functional studies without disrupting the ALI. Because the ALI is essential for the functional and cell-physiological properties of the lung tissue in general and of the lung lining in particular, the understanding would be stronger than with conventional methods.
Intensified research for improved functional, cellular and molecular sensors will not only open new ways to a phase-specific, possibly presymptomatic diagnosis, but also increasingly enables methods for the analysis and understanding of the cellular and molecular processes in the pulmonary basic research.