Harvard experiment shows Humans Can Combat Viruses By Taking Deep Breaths
In a minute, an average person takes about 16 breaths. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, and 8,409,600 a year. Unless we get a lot of exercises. A person who lives 80 years will breathe about 672,768,000 breaths in his lifetime. So, an average person will take more than 600 million breaths throughout their life. Right? Yes. Keep that in mind.
Every breath stretches and relaxes the lungs’ tissues with each inhale and exhale.
Recently, a new study conducted by researchers from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University shows that the constant and increased stretching and relaxing of our lungs generate immune responses against invading viruses, such as COVID-19. This means humans can fight viruses by taking deep breaths. By the way, always remember to get fresh air.
Just by taking deep breaths, you can fight viruses. Wow! That’s sounds amazing.
The researchers found that by using a ‘Human Lung Chip’ that replicates the structures and functions of the lung air sac, or “alveolus.” By applying force mechanically(By mimicking breathing motions), they suppressed replication of the influenza virus simultaneously activating innate protective immune responses. The results were published in Nature Communications.
“This research demonstrates the importance of breathing motions for human lung function, including immune responses to infection, and shows that our Human Alveolus Chip can be used to model these responses in the deep portions of the lung, where infections are often more severe and lead to hospitalization and death,” said co-first author Haiqing Bai, Ph.D.
Our lung is a vulnerable organ where inflammation can occur in response to infection. This can generate a “cytokine storm” which has deadly consequences. Also, our lungs are very complex organs. So, the researchers made strenuous efforts to replicate the unique features of our lungs in the lab.
To address this problem, the Wyss Institute developed Human Organ Chips. These ‘Human Organ Chips’ have replicated the functions of many different human organs in the lab, including the lung. Scientists at Wyss Institute have been hardly working on replicating and re-creating various diseases in Lung Airway and Alveolus Chips to understand the response of lung tissues to viruses that have pandemic potential, and test potential treatments.
The project was funded by the NIH(National Institutes of Health) and DARPA(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).
According to the previous studies held at the Wyss Institute, causing cyclical stretching by applying mechanical forces on Alveolus Chips to imitate breathing motions produces biological responses.
When the research team infected these “breathing” Alveolus Chips with H3N2 influenza, they found the development of several known characteristics of influenza infection. As a result, a 25% increase in cell death has occurred along with the initiation of cellular repair programs. This influenza infection also caused higher levels of multiple inflammatory cytokines in the blood vessel channel including type III interferon, a natural defense against viral infection.
Additionally, the blood vessel cells of infected chips expressed higher levels of adhesion molecules. This allowed immune cells in the perfusion medium such as B cells, T cells, and monocytes to attach to the blood vessel walls to help fight the infection.
Then the research team conducted the same experiment without mechanical breathing motions. When compared to static chips, the chips exposed to mechanical breathing motions surprisingly had 50% less viral mRNA in their alveolar channels and a significant reduction in inflammatory cytokine levels.
“This was our most unexpected finding – that mechanical stresses alone can generate an innate immune response in the lung,” said co-first author Longlong Si, Ph.D., a former Wyss Technology Development Fellow who is now a Professor at the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology in China.
“Because the higher strain level resulted in greater cytokine production, it might explain why patients with lung conditions like COPD suffer from chronic inflammation, and why patients who are put on high-volume ventilators sometimes experience ventilator-induced lung injury,” Si added.
However, Deep breathing of fresh air is something we can do easily to promote good health. So, take a deep breath… And breath out. Breath in… Breath out.
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