Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 38, Issue 12, pp 3535–3549 | Cite as

The Role of Airway Epithelium in Replenishment of Evaporated Airway Surface Liquid From the Human Conducting Airways

  • N. J. Warren
  • E. J. Crampin
  • M. H. TawhaiEmail author


This article presents a multi-scale computational model describing the transport of water vapor and heat within the human conducting airways and its interaction with cellular fluid transport kinetics. This tight coupling between the cell and the evaporative flux allows the periciliary liquid (PCL) depth to be investigated within the context of a geometric framework of the human conducting airways with spatial and temporal variations. Within the in vivo airway, the epithelium is not the only source of fluid available for hydration of the PCL, and fluid may also be supplied from submucosal glands (SMGs) or via axial transport of the PCL. The model predicts that without fluid supplied by either SMGs or via PCL transport, significant dehydration would occur under normal breathing conditions. Previous studies have suggested that PCL transport from the periphery to the trachea would require absorption of the fluid by the epithelium; here we show that this can theoretically be sustained by the evaporative load under normal breathing conditions. SMGs could also provide a significant supply of fluid for airway hydration, a hypothesis which is corroborated by comparing the distribution of SMGs as a function of airway generation with the distribution of airway evaporative flux.


Airway evaporation Periciliary liquid Multi-scale modeling Fluid secretion Submucosal gland Periciliary liquid transport 


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auckland Bioengineering InstituteUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Engineering ScienceUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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