Research team successfully grows human lung in lab

February 18, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Research team successfully grows human lung in lab
Credit: UTMB

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with the University of Texas has, for the first time, successfully grown a human lung in a lab. Project leads Dr. Joaquin Cortiella and Dr. Joan Nichols announced the landmark breakthrough to various members of the press this past week, describing the procedure and what was achieved.

Growing organs in the lab has become a reality in the past couple of years as scientists have learned more about and how they mature to become the cells that make up organs and other body parts. Windpipes, for example, have been successfully grown and implanted into human patients, and just last spring, a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston successfully implanted lab grown kidneys into rats. In this new effort, the researchers have been focusing on growing one of the most complicated organs in the human body—the lungs.

Nichols explained the procedure in simple terms. Lungs from two deceased juveniles were obtained. The first was stripped of all of its cells leaving just a scaffolding of elastin and collagen. Healthy cells were then taken from the second lung and applied to the scaffolding. Once thoroughly coated, the lung-to-be was placed in a glass tank full of a nutrient-rich solution where it soaked for four weeks. During that time, new cell growth filled in the scaffolding resulting in a new lung. To be sure their technique really worked, the team repeated the whole exercise with another set of lungs and found the same result.

The researchers don't know how well the newly grown lung might work if it were implanted into a person, if at all, but are confident that they are on the right track in growing lungs in a lab that will eventually be used to replace damaged lungs in actual patients, helping thousands of people who die every year waiting on a transplant.

Nichols was cautiously optimistic in her description of the work, suggesting that the team has taken something from science fiction and made it a reality. On the other hand, she notes that much more work still needs to be done—she doesn't expect lab-grown lungs to be transplanted into humans for at least a dozen years.

The team next plans to repeat the process with pig lungs and then to implant the results into a live pig to see how well they actually work.

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15 comments

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Cocoa
4.5 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2014
she doesn't expect lab-grown lungs to be transplanted into humans for at least a dozen years.


But still potentially in my life time - our world is evolving faster than we ever imagined. Life expectancy on a kidney transplant is around 15 years. There is a 2 - 3 year waiting list (on dialysis for 2 years at $36,000 a month - and then on anti rejection meds for the rest of your life - at $7,000 a month. This is exciting to see.
Returners
1 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2014
If they need the host lung to be healthy and well preserved right up till just before the procedure then I find no value in this technique, since the lung could have just waited on a compatible recipient.

If they are able to re-use this scaffolding tissue from already useless lungs, however, then I see the point, as pretty much every dead person's lungs could be extracted and used to help somebody no matter how bad their health.

TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2014
If they are able to re-use this scaffolding tissue from already useless lungs, however, then I see the point, as pretty much every dead person's lungs could be extracted and used to help somebody no matter how bad their health.

Even better, develop techniques for 3D printouts of these scaffoldings. And not just for lungs but for any parts that are needed.
captainqtp
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2014
I can smoke now!
Cocoa
5 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2014
@ Returnews
since the lung could have just waited on a compatible recipient.


Eliminating the need for a life time of anti refection medication - that suppresses your own immune system - seems like a big advantage to me.

SoylentGrin
4 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2014
If they need the host lung to be healthy and well preserved right up till just before the procedure then I find no value in this technique


One more step towards growing them completely if nothing else.

You'd be hard pressed to find any innovation that actually has no value.
ekim
4.5 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2014
If they need the host lung to be healthy and well preserved right up till just before the procedure then I find no value in this technique, since the lung could have just waited on a compatible recipient.

If they are able to re-use this scaffolding tissue from already useless lungs, however, then I see the point, as pretty much every dead person's lungs could be extracted and used to help somebody no matter how bad their health.


Actually the scaffolding tissue, also known as extracellular matrix, is the same across multiple species, and doesn't provoke rejection once stripped of cells. In theory, compatible organs could be obtained from an animal of comparable size, for instance a pig.
Sinister1812
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2014
But still potentially in my life time - our world is evolving faster than we ever imagined. .


Yes, but it's bad news if you were dying from lung disease today. Twelve years is still a pretty long time. We could be just as excited about flying cars, or time travel.
Jimee
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2014
I guess I might not benefit from this research so it has no value to me. The rest of you be damned, but I won't approve of this golfangled future stuff.
Sinister1812
not rated yet Feb 19, 2014
I guess I might not benefit from this research so it has no value to me. The rest of you be damned, but I won't approve of this golfangled future stuff.


Says the 13 year old...
Sinister1812
not rated yet Feb 19, 2014
I guess I might not benefit from this research so it has no value to me. The rest of you be damned, but I won't approve of this golfangled future stuff.


I didn't say I didn't approve of this. But then again, I guess I was being selfish thinking of those people who might actually need this soon... How stupid of me.

You rudely jump to the conclusion that I was talking about myself.
Cocoa
5 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2014
Sinsiter - I also read your comment as being very selfish - and a sarcastic criticism of this research. Your statement "We could be just as excited about flying cars, or time travel" seems pretty clear to me that you think the research foolish. Why should we not be excited about advances - even if they will not yield tangible results for a few decades? Perhaps you did not mean it that way - but I picked up the same thing that Jimee.
Sinister1812
5 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2014
Sorry Cocoa, I don't know what got into me. I guess I was a little frustrated that these things tend to take a long time. Progress always takes forever. But I understand that they have to get it perfect. Sorry, what I said was pretty selfish earlier, and yeah I'll admit that.
Cocoa
5 / 5 (1) Feb 20, 2014
All good sinister. One of the recurrent comments we see is people frustrated that many of the articles are about things that may come to pass. A lot of the reports are basic research - and may or may not pan out. It would be nice if they were all going to happen today - I agree that progress can feel very slow. But to the people benefitting from heart transplants today - we have to be grateful for all the people who got the early transplants - and died after just a few months. I date myself - I can remember the announcement of the first heart transplant.
Thereminator
5 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2014


" Twelve years is still a pretty long time. We could be just as excited about flying cars, or time travel." I am excited about flying cars...starting with the ones that exist today! : )

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