A light on a chip will allow you to understand how the body reacts to tuberculosis and coronavirus

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis ), most often it affects the lungs.

The model developed by scientists demonstrates thatcells of the respiratory system (alveolar epithelial cells) play an important role in the fight against infection at an early stage. They produce a surfactant substance (a mixture of lipids and proteins) that reduces surface tension in the areas of the lungs where air and fluid are most common.

These results complement scientists' understanding ofwhat happens at an early stage of tuberculosis infection. The new data also partly explains why smokers or people with impaired surfactant production are more likely to contract a primary or recurrent respiratory infection.

Tuberculosis affects people of all ages. Although the disease primarily affects adults, there are currently no effective vaccines for this group. This is partly due to the difficulty in studying the early stages of infection, which occurs when only one or two bacteria M. tuberculosis deposited deep in the lungs. The creation of a light-on-a-chip model allows scientists to investigate early infection processes.

An enlarged image of a model of a lung on a chip,used in the study. The endothelial or vascular canal is highlighted with red food dye, and the epithelial or airway canal with blue food dye. The design allows cells to be co-cultured from two channels in the middle of the chip. Photo: Vivek Tucker (CC BY 4.0)

The team of scientists used their model “lungon a Chip "to recreate the surfactant deficiency produced by alveolar epithelial cells and then see how lung cells respond to early TB infection. Their studies showed that a lack of surfactant leads to uncontrolled and rapid growth of bacteria both in macrophages and in the cells of the alveolar epithelium. In addition, the presence of a surfactant significantly reduces this growth in both cells, and in some cases completely prevents it.

The study authors state that they are now using the model to study how the lungs might respond to a low dose of infection and the novel coronavirus vaccine.

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