Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Lung Lymphocyte Killing Assay in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Technology #5661

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Christine Freeman
Managed By
Janani Ramaswamy
Licensing Specialist, Medical Deviceses 734-763-9081

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) already afflicts some 15 million Americans and is expected to grow by 30 percent across the globe over the next ten years. Certain studies have correlated natural killer (NK) and T cells with increased lung damage, but the link between these cell types and COPD remains hazy. Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a technique to assess the cytotoxic effect of these NK and T cells on structural lung cells and determine what role this interaction may play in COPD progression.

Co-culture of patient-derived primary cells

NK and T cells as well as the structural lung cells they may target are isolated from a single patient tissue and sorted according to different surface marker expression profiles. The different cell types (as determined by surface marker expression) are cultured together and survival of the structural cells is measured. Preliminary results indicate that NK cells from patients with COPD were significantly more lethal towards structural lung cells than those from non-COPD patients. Furthermore, the use of autologous cell populations eliminates questions of patient-to-patient variability and highlights future opportunities for applications in personalized medicine.


  • Laboratory research assays
  • Clinical screening for personalized medicine


  • Primary tissue samples provide clinical relevance
  • Co-culture strategy demonstrates new mechanism of COPD