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Cool Videos: A Look Inside a Mouse’s Lung

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

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.

A team of NIH-supported scientists at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and University of Southern California, led by Rex Moats and David Warburton, 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) LungMAP, 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


  • Carol Hill says:

    The LungMAP is a new NHLBI program that is committed to developing an atlas of the developing lung through use of cutting-edge imaging and omics technologies. The public will have access to the data though a freely accessible web-based resource. Please visit: for more detail.

  • Breo says:

    More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. . .

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