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Dynamic instabilities in the inflating lung

Naturevolume 417pages809811 (2002) | Download Citation



In lung diseases such as asthma1, expiratory flow becomes limited2, airways can collapse3 and the vital exchange of gases is compromised. Here we model the inflation of collapsed regions of the lung during inspiration in terms of avalanches propagating through a bifurcating network of airways, and find that the accompanying cascade of dynamic pressure instabilities — avalanche 'shocks' — manifests as negative elastic resistance of the lung. Our analysis of this apparent thermodynamic paradox provides a better understanding of aeration in the deep regions of the lung, which may find application in medical conditions in which gas exchange is impaired.

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  1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, 02215, Massachusetts, USA

    • Adriano M. Alencar
    • , Stephen P. Arold
    • , Dimitrije Stamenović
    •  & Béla Suki
  2. Center for Polymer Studies and Department of Physics, Boston University, Boston, 02215, Massachusetts, USA

    • Adriano M. Alencar
    • , Sergey V. Buldyrev
    • , Arnab Majumdar
    •  & H. Eugene Stanley


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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Adriano M. Alencar.

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