BU lab using microscopic ‘lungs’ to study COVID-19 (Video)

Original article from Boston 25 News by Jim Morelli

Scientists sometimes use human lung cancer cells in medical research. But there’s just one problem with that, said virologist Elke Muhlberger, PhD.

“These cancer cells do not act like lung cells,” she said. “They act like cancer cells.”

For her research on Covid-19, Dr. Muhlberger, who works at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, has the next best thing to an actual human lung – a microscopic version known as an organoid.

Organoids are derived from adult blood cells that have essentially been stripped of their identities then put through a chemical process to grow them into specific cell types.

“So they could become a liver cell,” Muhlberger said. “They could become a lung cell.”

And for Muhlberger, they became the specific type of lung cell commonly attacked by COVID-19.

“It’s a cell type which is deep in our lung,” Muhlberger said. “It’s called an alveolar lung cell. People that get really sick – they have the virus in these specific cells.”

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