Scientists successfully transplant lab-grown lungs into pigs


The next step of the research is to test whether the newly grown lung works by basically blocking the function of the pig's primary lung and seeing if they can still get oxygen into their blood and to the tissues. "This is the first time a whole bioengineered lung has been transplanted". Instead, for a paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers used two pig lungs for each pig. This was the source of the cells used to produce a tissue-matched bioengineered lung for each animal in the study.

In the United States alone, more than 1,400 people are waiting for a lung transplant - there simply aren't enough donor lungs available to meet the need. Imagine hospitals growing replacement organs for humans in the future.

"Our ultimate goal is to eventually provide new options for the many people awaiting a transplant", said Nichols, professor of internal medicine and associate director of the Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB.

Then, to create each bioengineered lung, the researchers placed those collected cells, a mixture of nutrients and the scaffold, inside of a tank called a bioreactor. "The growth factors help the cells to survive, and also help us make sure that when we add each type of cell - vascular or blood vessel or lung-specific cell - onto the scaffold that the cells stay where we need them to be". This is a lung-shaped scaffold made totally from lung proteins. Animal recipients were survived for 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after transplantation, allowing the research team to examine development of the lung tissue following transplantation and how the bioengineered lung would integrate with the body. "The bioengineered lung facilitates the development of a blood supply and provides for the establishment of natural lung microbial flora", John Hunt, who studies tissue engineering at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom and was not involved in this research, tells BBC News.

"We saw no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough", said Nichols and Cortiella.

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Bioengineered organs are something of a holy grail in transplantation research.

Within just two weeks, the organs were accepted by the pigs and had redeveloped the network of blood vessels.

As the cells came from the same animal that then received a bioengineered lung, there was no organ rejection.

"Here's the possibility of us making lungs for people who are waiting on that list and giving them hope", said Dr. Joaquin Cortiella, from the University of Texas medical branch.