Study shows how oxygen transfer altered in diseased lung tissue

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(Photo: VCG)

CHICAGO, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois (UI) have developed tiny sensors that measure oxygen transport in bovine lung tissue.

The new sensors are thin silicon- and graphene-based films that contain tiny transistors that measure oxygen permeation between biological surfaces.

The researchers used the sensors to compare oxygen transfer between healthy and diseased membranes. The samples consisted of a bovine lipid-protein extract commonly used to treat premature infants suffering respiratory distress, with a portion of the samples combined with cardiolipin.

"We found that more oxygen passes through the tissue diseased by cardiolipin, which may help explain previous observations of there being an off-balance of oxygen in the blood of pneumonia patients," said materials science and engineering professor Cecilia Leal, who led the study. "Even though an increase in oxygen flow could be perceived as positive, it is important to keep the natural exchange that occurs in the lung - transferring oxygen more rapidly into the bloodstream disrupts this healthy equilibrium."

The researchers also compared the structure of healthy and diseased tissue using microscopic and X-ray imaging. They found that the tissue combined with cardiolipin showed damaged spots, which they posit may be responsible for increased oxygen transfer and subsequent off-balance oxygen levels in pneumonia patients.

In the next stage, the researchers will be to study lung membranes extracted from healthy and diseased mammalian lungs, Leal said. "Our results raise important insights on lung membrane function, indicating that changes in structure and composition directly relate to oxygen permeation."

The study has established a new framework for observing the elusive connection between lung membranes, oxygen flow and related disease.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.