Traditional in vivo (toxicological) tests for inhalation require large numbers of laboratory animals, specialist facilities, expertise, time and financial resources. Moreover, we cannot perfectly translate these tests to the human situation. In clinical trials, many active ingredients also fail because they are toxic or insufficiently effective.  As a result, there is a strong need for the development of human-relevant alternative (in vitro) methods for studying the potential hazards and/or efficacy of these inhalable substances at an early stage. This way, we can not only significantly reduce the number of laboratory animals, but also generate a direct, positive impact on time and resources.

The research at VITO focuses on in vitro systems developed for airborne exposure of lung cells, known as the ‘air-liquid interface’ (ALI) exposure method. Lung cells are grown on a membrane, fed at the bottom by cell culture medium and brought into contact at the top with airborne substances (e.g. drugs, vaccines, chemicals, nanoparticles).

VITO has a range of ALI exposure modules and aerosol generation systems (for dry powders and liquids), as well as instruments for characterisation. We use several different lung cell systems: mono- and co-culture cell lines as well as lung cells from human donors.

In addition, we have a great many in-house options for dose determination and end-point measurements.