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Comput Math Methods Med. 2019 Jan 14;2019:5952941. doi: 10.1155/2019/5952941. eCollection 2019.

Modeling Airflow and Particle Deposition in a Human Acinar Region.

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Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.
Joint UNC-NCSU Department of Biomedical Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.


The alveolar region, encompassing millions of alveoli, is the most vital part of the lung. However, airflow behavior and particle deposition in that region are not fully understood because of the complex geometrical structure and intricate wall movement. Although recent investigations using 3D computer simulations have provided some valuable information, a realistic analysis of the air-particle dynamics in the acinar region is still lacking. So, to gain better physical insight, a physiologically inspired whole acinar model has been developed. Specifically, air sacs (i.e., alveoli) were attached as partial spheroids to the bifurcating airway ducts, while breathing-related wall deformation was included to simulate actual alveolar expansion and contraction. Current model predictions confirm previous notions that the location of the alveoli greatly influences the alveolar flow pattern, with recirculating flow dominant in the proximal lung region. In the midalveolar lung generations, the intensity of the recirculating flow inside alveoli decreases while radial flow increases. In the distal alveolar region, the flow pattern is completely radial. The micron/submicron particle simulation results, employing the Euler-Lagrange modeling approach, indicate that deposition depends on the inhalation conditions and particle size. Specifically, the particle deposition rate in the alveolar region increases with higher inhalation tidal volume and particle diameter. Compared to previous acinar models, the present system takes into account the entire acinar region, including both partially alveolated respiratory bronchioles as well the fully alveolated distal airways and alveolar sacs. In addition, the alveolar expansion and contraction have been calculated based on physiological breathing conditions which make it easy to compare and validate model results with in vivo lung deposition measurements. Thus, the current work can be readily incorporated into human whole-lung airway models to simulate/predict the flow dynamics of toxic or therapeutic aerosols.

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