TB Research Breakthrough: New 3D System Replicates Lungs

Discover the breakthrough in TB research: IISc develops a 3D system that closely replicates human lungs, promising better understanding and treatment of tuberculosis

TB Research

TB Research: IISc Team Develops 3D System That Replicates Lungs


Bengaluru has become a beacon of hope in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) thanks to a groundbreaking development by scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). This innovative team has created a novel 3D hydrogel culture system that closely mimics the human lung. This development provides a revolutionary platform to track and study how tuberculosis bacteria infect lung cells and to test the efficacy of various therapeutics used to treat the infection.

Understanding Tuberculosis

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is a dangerous pathogen. It is responsible for tuberculosis, a severe infectious disease primarily affecting the lungs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB affected 10.6 million people and caused 1.3 million deaths in 2022. The complexity of this disease demands advanced research models to develop effective treatments.

Traditional vs. Modern Models

The IISc team, led by Rachit Agarwal, associate professor at the Department of Bioengineering, addressed the limitations of traditional 2D culture models. These older models fail to replicate the complex 3D structure of lung tissue, potentially skewing research results.

“It is a very old bug, and it has evolved with us quite a bit,” said Agarwal, who’s a corresponding author of the study published in Advanced Healthcare Materials.

The Innovative 3D Hydrogel Culture System

The new hydrogel culture is composed of collagen, a key component of lung tissue. This 3D environment allows researchers to observe how TB bacteria interact with human immune cells over extended periods – up to three weeks, compared to just 4-7 days in conventional systems. Notably, RNA sequencing revealed that cells grown in the hydrogel more closely resemble actual human lung tissue samples than those in traditional cultures. This increased biological accuracy could lead to more relevant research outcomes.

Key Advantages of the 3D Model

  • Extended Observation Period: Allows researchers to observe interactions for up to three weeks.
  • Increased Biological Accuracy: Cells in the hydrogel resemble actual lung tissue more closely.
  • Effective Drug Testing: Demonstrated that the TB drug pyrazinamide was effective at much lower doses.

Patent and Scalability

The researchers have filed an Indian patent for their innovation, designed to be easily replicable by other scientists and scalable for industrial drug testing.

Future Research and Drug Development

The breakthrough can expedite further research. Future plans include using the model to study why TB manifests differently among patients and exploring new drug development possibilities. This breakthrough could accelerate TB research and potentially lead to more effective treatments.

Vishal Gupta, PhD student and first author, mentioned the team’s interest in understanding the mechanism of action of pyrazinamide, which may help discover new drugs that are more efficient.

Recent Related Advances

  • Breakthrough in MH370 Search: Researchers detect a promising new signal.
  • Seeing the Unseen: IISc researchers develop a device to make infrared light visible.


The new 3D hydrogel culture system developed by IISc represents a significant advancement in TB research. It holds the potential to improve our understanding of TB infection and treatment, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for millions affected by this deadly disease.


1. What is the significance of the new 3D hydrogel culture system?The 3D hydrogel culture system closely mimics human lung tissue, providing a more accurate platform for studying TB infections and testing treatments.

2. How does the new model compare to traditional 2D culture models?The new model allows for extended observation periods and increased biological accuracy, leading to more relevant research outcomes.

3. What are the potential future applications of this research?Future applications include studying TB’s varied manifestations in patients and exploring new drug development possibilities.

4. What makes pyrazinamide effective in the new model?The model showed that pyrazinamide is effective at much lower, more clinically relevant doses compared to traditional 2D cultures.

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Khushbu Choudhary
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