In Vitro Lung Models Workshop in Geneva

A cheesy welcome

On the 13th of November Giulia and I flew to Geneva to attend the workshop on in vitro Lung Models, which was organised by OrganoVIR’s partner Epithelix Sarl. We started our Swiss adventure in a beautiful way: Louisa turned 22 years for the 8th time, so a birthday celebration was in order! As soon as we arrived at the airport we rushed to the hotel and made our way to the Chalet, where cheese was waiting for us! Together with Louisa, Mariana and Thuc we enjoyed an amazing fondue. With our bellies properly filled we were ready for tomorrow’s workshop!


United for lungs

After some nice croissants and some much needed coffee we started the workshop with two lectures from Dr. Rex FitzGerald (Swiss Centre for Applied Human Toxicology) and Dr. Samuel Constant (Epithelix Sarl). Dr. FitzGerald, who was the keynote speaker, showed us a different perspective from the regulatory point of view regarding in vitro lung models and Dr. Constant explained the 3D in vitro models of the human airway epithelium. Three lectures on new technologies followed: Janick Stucki (Alveolix) introduced a breathing Lung-on-Chip, Patrick Weindl (Vitrocell) showed us new devices for aerosol exposure and Adrien Roux (University of Applied Sciences of Geneva, HEPIA) illustrated the importance of transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) measurement.

After we got to learn about the theory, it was time for the HOT part… All participants were assigned a color so we could be split in groups of three and begin with the hands-on training (HOT). Group 1 and 2 were scheduled on the first day and the remaining three groups for the day after. The first two sessions focused on the models developed by Epithelix Sarl (MucilAir, reproducing the upper respiratory tract, and SmallAir, mimicking the lower part), their quality control criteria and how to use them for comparison with diseased models, such as cystic fibrosis.

To wrap up the day we crossed the Swiss-French barrier to have dinner together in a more relaxed environment and to get to know each other better.

The next morning we proceeded with the novel devices developed by start-ups and academia to address unsolved questions in a user-friendly manner. We started with the nebulizer chamber that allows the user to test exposures of different compounds. Later, we got inspired by the use of TEER, not only as an end-point measurement, but also to monitor it across time. However, the thing that caught our attention the most was the Alveolix chip. This chip is able to reproduce the air-blood barrier and could be used to model diseases thanks to the possibility of co-culturing different cell types together. We also saw it breathing!


A glimpse of Geneva

With the certificates in our hands we took the tram to the city center to see the Jet d’Eau, the big fountain of Geneva, and walked around the city for a while. Last but not least, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to buy some delicious Swiss chocolates to bring back home!