Physiological 3D tissue model of the airway wall and mucosa

Nat Protoc. 2006;1(1):357-62. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2006.54.


This protocol describes the setup, maintenance and characteristics of a tissue-engineered model of the human bronchial mucosa that can be used for basic physiology and pathophysiology studies. The model includes a well-differentiated epithelium with functional cilia, mucus secretion and subepithelial fibroblasts within type I collagen. The tissue is created within porous polymeric wells to prevent gel contraction and allow culture at the air-liquid interface. It requires at least 2 wk to be established and can be maintained thereafter for over 4 wk, with tissue differentiation moving towards a more physiologically relevant phenotype with increasing time in culture. Over time, the extracellular matrix also remodels, depositing proteins such as types III and IV collagen and fibronectin. Because it recapitulates many key anatomical and functional features of the airway wall, this model is well suited for a wide range of studies, including those on airway remodeling, transepithelial transport and inflammatory cell interactions with the mucosa. The entire protocol takes 4-6 wk, including cell expansion, depending on the extent of ciliogenesis desired.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchi / cytology
  • Bronchi / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / physiology*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*