The National Institutes of Health last week announced a
two-year, $1.25 million grant to researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to develop a method of custom-growing human lung tissue to make a three-dimensional model for biomedical studies. News Release
Dr. Joan Nichols, the principal investigator on the project, on Friday visited with Guidry News Service in her office in the Galveston National Laboratory - to talk about the grant and about her research. Listen
“About 12 years ago I decided that I really wanted to make a human model of the lung and respiratory tract, or just human models in general of other organ systems,” Dr. Nichols said, noting that laboratory animals are not the best models. “They all bite and they are all difficult to manage. And none of them really, really are the same as human response.”
Nichols credited the late Dr. Robert Shope, a world-renown virologist who was a member of the UTMB faculty until his death in 2004, as her mentor who facilitated her partnership with Dr. Joaquin Cortiella a researcher in the field of regenerative medicine.
“We have worked together to produce lung tissues, respiratory tract tissues, other organ system tissues, for regenerative medicine because that’s what he is interested in; but, you see, out of doing that I also get models,” she said. “The one that we’ve gotten the farthest along in development is the development of a lung model system, and that’s actually what NIH is funding me to work with.”
Dr. Nichols said the project is to develop a model system that “can be used in some type of unit or chip assembly as a small three-dimensional model of what the lung physiology is like and what might happen to be able to test toxicity for the lung, how the lung might respond in terms of vaccine responses, all those types of things.
"But the best thing is about it is it’s human!”