Biological Physics @ CMU

The Biological Physics Initiative
Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Physics

Steve Garoff's research in the area of lung surfactants

Marangoni Driven Spreading on Entangled Polymer Solutions With Applications to Pulmonary Drug Delivery

Inhaled aerosol drugs can deliver substantial doses of medication directly to the lungs while minimizing the exposure of the rest of the body to the medication, greatly reducing the possibility of side effects. Antibiotics are often administered this way for treatment of the pulmonary infections associated with cystic fibrosis. Aerosols (fine droplets of liquid suspended in air) are mainly transported through the lung in the air stream during inhalation. However, obstructions in the airways and other consequences of cystic fibrosis lung disease may cause inhaled droplets containing drugs to be deposited non-uniformly so that some lung regions receive very high local doses of medication, while other regions go untreated. We are exploring how to incorporate surfactants into the aerosol formulations so when the aerosol drops land, surface tension gradients are created and drug in driven along the surface of the airways. To investigate this and other potential lung therapies using surfactants, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and clinicians from various departments at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh.

Radioscintigraphy showing non-uniform and reduced spreading of formulation due to airway blocking



students working on this project:

  • Kevin Koch (Physics grad student)
  • Amsul Khanal (BME grad student)
  • Alex Marakov (Physics undergrad)
  • Austin Good (ChemE undergrad)



  • A.L. Marcinkowski, S. Garoff, R. Tilton, J.M. Pilewski, T.E. Corcoran J. Aerosol Med. Pulm. Drug Deliv.,  21 361 (2008).


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