Testing response to flu virus strains in lab-grown mini replicas of human airways
Any type of influenza, such as bird or swine flu, jumping from animals to humans is cause for concern. New strains present a threat because our bodies have no immunity developed from past exposure, so being able to predict which forms of flu might take hold in humans would be useful. Now researchers might have a way to tell whether a particular flu could cause us harm. They grew an artificial replica of human airways from human stem cells, which can be exposed to any potentially threatening strain to see if infection sets in. The structures are made of live, functioning cells like the one shown, with tiny hairs beating just as they would in your airways. Initial tests accurately identified which strains of bird and swine flu could infect humans, and armed with this warning system we might be better prepared to fight the next flu epidemic.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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