Miguel Guzman ’24, a native of Lima, Peru, is a senior biotechnology major in the College of Arts and Sciences with an entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises minor in the Whitman School of Management. His research centers on developing bio-enabled protein…
Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Faculty Member Receives Grant to Research the Potential of Laser Technology for Printing Lung Interfaces
Human lungs are intricate 3D structures with air sacs surrounded by blood vessels with a gap between them that can be less than one micrometer (as a frame of reference, human hair is about 100 micrometers wide). This minuscule gap/membrane between the air side and the blood side is the key to our respiratory system being able to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. The thin membranes modulate oxygen transfer in the lungs, but so far no one has been able to fabricate them outside the human body.
Biomedical and chemical engineering Associate Professor Pranav Soman has received a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for developing a model that would mimic the complex structure of human lungs using biocompatible hydrogel materials. His research group, which includes postdoctoral associate Puskal Kunwar, will utilize a new laser technology to print structures that resemble the micrometer-sized interfaces found in human lungs. An imaging system will also be integrated to show real-time assessment of oxygen and gas exchanges across model epithelial and endothelial cell monolayers seeded within the printed structures.
Soman and Kunwar hope that this work will be a significant step towards being able to construct human organs that can save lives and speed up the recovery process.
“We believe that this multi-scale device will be useful as a physiological model and screening platform for various bio-related applications,” says Kunwar. “For instance, the device can serve as a model system to assess therapeutic efficacy of candidate drugs for lung disease.”
“With this new technology, we can recreate that one-micron membrane structure and really understand what is going on with the gas exchange in human lungs,” says Soman. “This project will pave the path towards realizing the dream of on-demand printing of a human scale lung tissue using 3D printing.”