Bioethics Blogs

Cool Videos: A Look Inside a Mouse’s Lung

Mouse Lung

If you have ever wondered what it is like to be an oxygen molecule inhaled through the lungs, here is your chance to find out! In this movie, we take a fantastic voyage through the slippery airways of the adult mouse lung.

We begin at the top in the main pipeline, called the bronchus, just below the trachea and wind through a system of increasingly narrow tubes. As you zoom through the airways, take note of the cilia (seen as goldish streaks); these tiny, hair-like structures move dust, germs, and mucus from smaller air passages to larger ones. Our quick trip concludes with a look into the alveoli — the air sacs where oxygen is delivered to red blood cells and carbon dioxide is removed and exhaled.

Rex Moats, an NIH-supported scientist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and University of Southern California’s Saban Research Institute, created this virtual bronchoscopy from micro-computed tomography scans, which use X-rays to create a 3D image. The work demonstrates the power of converting Big Data (in this case, several billion data points) into an animation that makes the complex anatomy of a mammalian lung accessible to everyone.

The project is part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI’s) Lung Map, which integrates the macro anatomy of lungs with the cellular and genetic intricacies of lung cells. Not only did Moats’s animation make a splash in the biomedical research community, it earned kudos in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2014 BioArt contest.


What is Bronchoscopy? (NHLBI/NIH)

Translational Biomedical Imaging Laboratory, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

BioArt, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

NIH support: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.