Fighting viruses from breathing

Do Your Lungs Kill Viral Invaders?

September 23, 2023

Breathing, a fundamental human activity, plays a pivotal role in our health, influencing various lung functions, including our immune responses to viruses. Researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have delved deeper into this connection, unveiling that the regular pattern of inhaling and exhaling can bolster our defenses against viral invaders.

Using an innovative tool called the Human Lung Chip, which simulates the structure and function of the lung’s air sac or “alveolus,” the team made a groundbreaking discovery. They found that by mimicking the motions associated with breathing, they could suppress the replication of the influenza virus. This suppression is achieved by activating innate immune responses, our body’s first line of defense against pathogens.

But the research didn’t stop there. The team identified potential therapeutics that could reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines in infected Alveolus Chips. One of these promising drugs caught the attention of Cantex Pharmaceuticals, leading to its licensing for the treatment of inflammatory lung diseases, including the much-feared COVID-19. This collaboration between academia and industry saw the study’s findings being incorporated into Cantex’s Investigational New Drug application, submitted to the FDA. The goal? To initiate a Phase 2 clinical trial targeting COVID-19.

Published in Nature Communications, this research underscores the profound importance of breathing motions in lung function. It also highlights the versatility and potential of the Human Alveolus Chip as a tool. Not only can it model the lung’s responses, but it also offers a platform for preclinical drug testing, bridging the gap between laboratory research and real-world applications.

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