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The University of Southampton

Artificial airways good news for asthma and animals

Published: 29 April 2008

A new 'artificial' airway being developed in a test tube could make it possible to develop better therapies for asthma and allergy sufferers and could reduce the need for animal testing.

This development will benefit people with asthma, whose airways (breathing passages) are sensitive to pollen, dust, animal fur and viruses which cause them to be inflamed making it hard to breathe.

Academics at the University of Southampton are working with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) on this project.

Principal Investigator on the project, Donna Davies, Professor of Respiratory, Cell and Molecular Biology in the School of Medicine's Infection, Inflammation and Repair division, is working with Professor Hywel Morgan of the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science to construct the artificial airways.

NC3Rs provides a UK focus for the promotion, development and implementation of the 3Rs in animal research and testing. The airways, which are being developed over a two and a half year period, will be made using tissue engineering. Layers of the cells that make up the airway tissue will be grown inside a micro-fluidic device. The cells will be grown on a tiny membrane that will allow access to both sides (the air and blood) of the cells. The device will allow researchers to fully understand how lung function is affected by air particles and allergens and to test their effects without animal testing.

"This new model will allow us to measure the transport of materials and the challenges the airways are presented with," said Professor Hywel Morgan.

The new Mountbatten Building at the University, due for completion later this year, will make it possible to develop the microfluidic devices needed to take this research forward.

Notes for editors

  1. For further information about Professor Morgan's work, please visit:
  2. For further information about Professor Davies' work, please visit:
  3. For further information about NC3Rs, please visit:
  4. The £55 million Mountbatten building, which is due for completion later in 2008, will provide a world-class facility that will allow the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) and the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) to make leading-edge contributions to new research areas in nanotechnology and photonics.
    The state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary facility has been designed specifically to meet the long-term research needs of ECS and the ORC, and contains a large purpose-built clean room and associated laboratories, along with offices and meeting spaces. For further information, please visit:
  5. With around 500 researchers, and 900 undergraduate students, the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton is one of the world's largest and most successful integrated research groupings, covering Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electronics, and Electrical Engineering. ECS has unrivalled depth and breadth of expertise in world-leading research, new developments and their applications.
  6. The University of Southampton is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, with a global reputation for excellence in both teaching and research. With first-rate opportunities and facilities across a wide range of subjects in science and engineering, health, arts and humanities, the University has over 22,000 students and 5000 staff at its campuses in Southampton and Winchester. Its annual turnover is in the region of £325 million.
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