Cigarette-Smoking Robot Helps Scientists Understand Lung Disease

It is well known that cigarette smoking causes lung disease and is a key exacerbating factor for patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but it has not been possible to effectively model its harmful effects on human lungs under normal breathing conditions. Researchers from Harvard University's Wyss Institute have built a robot that can smoke cigarettes just like a human to better understand lung diseases. The instrument they engineered can 'breathe' in and out, actively smoke regular and electronic cigarettes, and then deliver the smoke to microfluidic organs-on-chips lined by human lung small airway cells isolated from non-smokers or patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The integrated smoking system enables a better understanding of smoke-related pathological changes in individual smokers, and could facilitate the discovery of more accurate biomarkers and new therapeutic targets.