Lung research

Research for healthy lungs

Airway research has been a focus at Fraunhofer ITEM ever since the institute was founded. One emphasis has been on protecting health from potentially harmful, in particular airborne substances – be they gases, aerosols, particles, fibers, or nanomaterials – and another one on investigating and developing diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, both at the preclinical and clinical levels. To characterize the exposure to airborne substances, Fraunhofer ITEM researchers implement novel nebulizers and test beds and further develop already established technologies such as the P.R.I.T.® in-vitro exposure system, for example for the characterization of materials such as nanocarriers that may be used as drug delivery systems in the long term.

A synergetic development

Fraunhofer ITEM researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the effects of the combination drug on patients’ heart function at the CRC Hannover.
© Fraunhofer ITEM

The long-standing expertise in lung research is experiencing a synergetic further development of high clinical relevance. RNA molecules in particular are being investigated very successfully as diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets for the benefit of patients with pulmonary diseases. Computer-assisted translational bioinformatics, used to predict molecular mechanisms based on RNA molecules, is of particular importance in this context. Fraunhofer ITEM researchers are currently exploring the potential of RNAs for toxicology and efficacy testing of drugs. 

Advancing ideas to the proof of concept

© Fraunhofer ITEM
Through their clinical research, Fraunhofer ITEM scientists enable a direct transfer of findings to humans, for example, by using chip cytometry and exhaled breath analysis.

To efficiently translate ideas from bench to bedside, the scientists use appropriate exposure systems, some of which have been developed specifically for this purpose, and innovative model systems that closely mimic the situation in patients. They use the generated data to further develop and refine their modeling approaches, so as to allow in-vitro results or findings to be extrapolated both qualitatively and quantitatively for the prediction of the expected in-vivo effect in humans. Candidate drugs can be tested at the institute for their efficacy and side effects to provide the proof of concept in humans, i.e. the necessary evidence of the drug’s mode of action.

Lung research: recent projects and highlights


Investigation of neoepitope biomarkers

Fraunhofer ITEM scientists published novel data on neoepitope biomarkers of type I, III and VI collagen formation or degradation in precision-cut lung slices (PCLS) from patients with pulmonary fibrosis.


Project FibroPaths®

Therapeutic modulation of organ fibrosis in biochip format. 

Neutrophil subset as potential therapeutic target for secondary lung tissue injury

In collaboration with scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine, Fraunhofer ITEM researchers explored a new potential therapeutic target for neutrophil-mediated secondary tissue injury.

Non-invasive examination of the lungs by means of exhaled particles

Inhaled booster Vaccination

In cooperation with the MHH, Fraunhofer ITEM scientists are investigating the safety and efficacy of inhaled booster vaccination against Corona in a phase-I trial. 

Checking the immune response in the lungs

Using chip cytometry, Fraunhofer ITEM researchers have established a procedure for characterizing immune cells in the lungs. With this technique, valuable samples from patients can be stored for months.


Lung pharmacokinetics

Clinical evaluation of the lung pharmacokinetics of inhaled and systemic drugs.


Threshold dose on ambrosia pollen

With a newly developed experimental setup in the Fraunhofer Allergen Challenge Chamber (Fraunhofer ACC), the Fraunhofer scientists can messure allergenic potency of ambrosia pollen. 


Precision-cut lung slices

Precision-cut lung slices allow early events in the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases to be studied in human lung tissue.

Project archive

Here you can find more projects sorted by our research and development competences. 

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Clinical studies at Fraunhofer ITEM

We are a highly specialized, academia-affiliated research center for early-phase and proof-of-concept clinical trials.

#WeKnow ClinicalResearch

Get some insights into our clinical airway research in our video series #WeKnowClinicalResearch.

Coronavirus research at Fraunhofer ITEM

As an institute with decades of experience in infection and airway research Fraunhofer ITEM can make an important contribution to scientific progress in the fight against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.


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