Scientists Created Lab-Grown Lungs And Transplanted Them Into Pigs

The organs transplanted into the pigs were built in a laboratory but were not made from scratch researchers said

In it, they detail their latest milestone along the path to creating lab-grown lungs for humans: they can now successfully transplant these bioengineered lungs into pigs. "These can be used to produce scaffolds or, if there are still cells, we can bank the lung and vascular cells from these lungs to bioengineer new lungs".

The researchers hope that the technology could one day be used for human lung transplants. Lung transplants are particularly problematic, with the number of people requiring one increasing worldwide, while the number of available transplantable organs has decreased. The lungs were reportedly cleaned using sugar and detergent, which left a "scaffolding" from which the scientists could work.

They then created a cocktail of nutrients and lung cells from the pig which was to receive the transplant, and placed it in a tank with the organ skeleton.

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On Wednesday, researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch published a new paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The lungs, called "bioengineered lungs", were created using donor pigs' lungs. This is a lung-shaped scaffold made totally from lung proteins.

For the first time, a team of United States scientists was able to grow a lung, along with working blood vessels, and then keep it breathing inside a pig.

"We were also able to improve from small animal studies to then transplanting them into a larger animal with a larger lung".

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

There was no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough, according to the researchers.

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

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For this reason, future studies will look at long-term survival and maturation of the tissues as well as gas exchange capability. But first, coauthor Joan Nichols of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston tells Popular Science, the team will "need to prove that the animals can survive on the oxygen provided by the engineered lung alone". Besides transplants, bioengineered lungs are a great testing medium for experimental drugs, another line of work that can save countless lives.

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