Lab-Grown Lungs Transplanted into Pigs

A team of scientists made artificial lungs and then transplanted them into pigs. The pigs all survived

Scientists in the United States created lungs in the lab and announced that were successfully and without complications transplanted into pigs. This puts us one step closer to providing human patients in dire need of a transplant with the organs they need to survive.

"The number of people who have developed severe lung injuries has increased worldwide, while the number of available transplantable organs have decreased", study author Joaquin Cortiella, a professor of pediatric anesthesia, said in a university news release. The lungs were reportedly cleaned using sugar and detergent, which left a "scaffolding" from which the scientists could work. They used lungs from already dead pigs and stripped the organs of blood and tissue cells, leaving behind a bare-bones framework of proteins.

On August 1, Nichols and her team published a paper in the Science Translational Medicine where they documented the process of creating lungs from pigs that have been successfully transplanted into animals for extended periods of time. Blood vessels and lung tissue cells were "repopulated", according to Science News.

A team of scientists made artificial lungs and then transplanted them into pigs (not this one). The lung scaffold was placed into a tank filled with a carefully blended cocktail of nutrients and the animals' own cells were added to the scaffold following a carefully designed protocol or recipe. "The bioengineered lungs continued to develop post-transplant without any infusions of growth factors, the body provided all of the building blocks that the new lungs needed". The lungs, called "bioengineered lungs", were created using donor pigs' lungs.

All in all, a lung transplant operation is a tedious, complicated job that does not come with guaranteed success.

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

If all goes as hoped with the pig experiments, the researchers believe they could be just five to 10 years away from being able to create lab-grown lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances (people with life-threatening conditions and essentially no other treatment options). However, it looks like the road is still long before human bioengineered lung transplants could take place.

"This project has taken 15 years to get to this point and we are thrilled that we did so well", Nichols said.

But even after two months, the laboratory lung was not mature enough to supply the animal with oxygen.

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