Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Using organoids - lab grown models – of lung tissue to model viral infection in COPD

09 January 2023


Persistent wheezing, coughing and breathlessness. These are all symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Add a lung infection on top of COPD and these symptoms worsen. To better investigate how COPD affects lung infection at an individual level, researchers created organoids – lab-grown tissues that mimic organs – using tissue samples collected from the airways (bronchi) and nasopharyngeal areas of healthy and COPD patients. Fluorescence microscopy of nasopharyngeal (pictured, left) and bronchial (right) organoids from healthy (top) and COPD (bottom) individuals revealed more goblet cells (magenta) in COPD organoids – this mimics what's seen in COPD patients. SARS-CoV-2 infection of COPD organoids showed that viruses replicated more in bronchial than in nasopharyngeal organoids. This is also in line with real-life disease, where the bronchi are the main site of infection in severe COVID-19 cases. This lab-grown system may therefore prove useful in modelling lung disease and infection in individual cases.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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