Studying Coronavirus: Scientists grow mini-lungs to observe the impact of COVID-19 on them; details

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October 24, 2020 4:41 PM

It is known that the Coronavirus impacts human lungs primarily, however, the process of attack is still being researched.

In the experiments, the researchers developed a model using mini-lungs, also known as lung organoids. Image: IE

It is known that the Coronavirus impacts human lungs primarily, however, the process of attack is still being researched. Two studies highlighting the attack have surfaced and in both studies, a similar technique is used. In order to understand the process, scientists have first developed lung models in the lab. Then the lung models are infected with SARS-CoV-2. As the virus attacks the lungs, the battle between the two- lung cells and virus is studied closely. It is to note that one study is being conducted by the UK researchers along with South Korean researchers while the other is being done by researchers from Duke University and University of North Carolina. They both are now published in Cell Stem Press journal.

A report by The Indian Express citing these studies noted that Coronavirus affects and damages the Alveoli in lungs. To be sure, Alveoli are balloon-like air sacs and the oxygen breathed in is taken there. The process of carbon dioxide exchange takes place within the Alveoli. If they are damaged, it can lead to pneumonia as well as acute respiratory distress. This is a major cause in deaths due to COVID-19 infection.

In the experiments, the researchers developed a model using mini-lungs, also known as lung organoids. According to the report, the lung organoids were grown using the stem cells. These particular stem cells are usually used to repair deep areas of lungs (AT2 cells), a point where SARS-CoV-2 attacks. These AT2 cells were reprogrammed back to the stage where they were stem cells. After that, they grow into self-organising and alveolar-like 3D structures further mimicking the behaviour of lungs. As soon as the virus was introduced to the model, it started replicating.

The study highlighted that interferons were produced in less than six hours. Interferons are proteins that warn the neighbouring cells. The human cells start to fight back after 48 hours of infection and after 60 hours, the alveolar cells begin to disintegrate. This eventually leads to cell death and severe damage to the tissue.

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