Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), located in Galveston, have successfully grown human lungs in a laboratory using components from the lungs of deceased children.
Dr. Joquin Cortiella, a researcher at UTMB, said that “the lung is probably the most complex of all organs,” which adds to the difficulty in regenerating the organ’s tissue.
“In terms of different cell types, the lung is probably the most complex of all organs — the cells near the entrance are very different from those deep in the lung.”
The world’s first was announced by by UTMB in 2010, Medical News Today reported on February 17, 2014.
Cortiella went on to indicate that people questioned why they were trying to grow human lungs due to the difficulty derived from its complexity, to which she responded that “the potential is so great, and the technology is here,” so they pursued the research regardless of the difficulty. She added that if they could “make a good lung for people” that they could also create “a good model for injury.”
“People ask us why we’re doing the lung, because it’s so hard. But the potential is so great, and the technology is here. It’s going to take time, but I think we’re going to create a system that works. (…) If we can make a good lung for people, we can also make a good model for injury (…) We can create a fibrotic lung, or an emphysematous lung, and evaluate what’s happening with those, what the cells are doing, how well stem cell or other therapy works. We can see what happens in pneumonia, or what happens when you’ve got a hemorrhagic fever, or tuberculosis, or hantavirus – all the agents that target the lung and cause damage in the lung.”
The research involved destroying the cells of rat lungs through a process of repeatedly freezing, thawing, and then “reseeding” the lungs with embryonic stem cells derived from mice. That research was then followed up with large-scale experimentation on pig lungs. The human lungs were eventually grown in a “fish tank” using cells taken from two deceased children’s lungs. The researchers stripped one of the lungs down to just the collagen and elastin. They then harvested cells from the other lung and applied them to the scaffolding before placing the lung structure in a chamber filled with a nutritious liquid and after just 4 weeks of being immersed in the solution, the team extracted what they concluded was a complete human lung, only it was a “pinker, softer, and less dense.”
News Took report that the researchers had first developed this technique back in 2010 and later tested the method on rat and pig lungs prior to testing on the technique on human lungs.
Nichols indicated that while they’d done “something amazing” with their recent breakthrough, the reality of lab-engineered lungs being used in transplants could be as many as 12 years away.
“It’s taken us a year to prove to ourselves that we actually did a good job with it. You don’t run out immediately and tell the world you have something wonderful until you’ve proved it to ourselves that we really did something amazing”
Inquisitr reported back in August of 2013 that limb regeneration could be a reality within 10 years.
Are you excited by the prospect of lung transplants?
[Image via Nature World News]