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Respiratory Epithelium and CiliarMechanic

Respiratory Epithelium

The inner lining of the trachea is the mucosa, consisting of epithelium and lamina propria. The epithelium is pseudostratified and contains columnar cells with cilia protruding into the tracheal lumen and goblet cells which produce mucus. About 90 % of the epithelium is ciliated. The cilia of the epithelial cells are motile and show a directed pulsatile movement which transports the mucus and dust or other foreign particles to the mouth where they can be swallowed or expectorated.

Research on cell culture of respiratory epithelial cells was started beginning of the 1980ies with main interest in ion contents and electrical properties. When culturing primary respiratory epithelial cells, isolation, growth surface and culture medium are of high importance as well as an air-liquid interface is for cell differentiation. For primary ovine and porcine respiratory epithelial cells, we are examining improvement of culture conditions.


Figure 1: Ovine respiratory epithelial cells on a collagen-coated culture surface


In vivo, respiratory epithelium is subjected to various exogenous influences because of its direct contact to the breathing air. Beside air composition, pressure and flow situation can change due to pathological conditions. These changes can be caused by primary lung diseases as well as by severe changes in breathing mechanics during artificial respiration. Not much is known about the impact of these processes on integrity and function of the respiratory epithelium.

Aim of the CiliarMechanik-project is the examination of the influence of biomechanical variables on development and function of respiratory epithelial in vitro. Ciliary function is analyzed in a two-compartment bioreactor which allows culture with optimally defined and laminar flow conditions. Additionally, this is of high importance to optimize culture of respiratory epithelial cells for Tissue Engineering.

Project Leader

PhD Student, M. Sc.

Lena Thiebes

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