Research team successfully grows human lung in lab

February 18, 2014 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress 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.

Explore further: Researchers getting closer to growing a human heart

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7 comments

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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!
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.
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.
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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