Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
Medical | By

[H]ardOCP: We Can Now Successfully Transplant Lab-Grown Lungs in Pigs

[H]ardOCP: We Can Now Successfully Transplant Lab-Grown Lungs in Pigs

However there is a glimmer of hope on that horizon, thanks to scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch where they have successfully managed to transplant lab-grown lungs into a pig. "The bioengineered lung facilitates the development of a blood supply and provides for the establishment of natural lung microbial flora", John Hunt, who studies tissue engineering at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom and was not involved in this research, tells BBC News.

The team accomplished this by creating a lung scaffold from the organ of another animal using both detergent and sugar to wipe out all the cells and blood - only the proteins were left.

The researchers hope that the technology could one day be used for human lung transplants.

Lab-grown lungs were successfully transplanted into pigs for the first time.

The lungs, which were tissue-matched to each individual pig, were grown in the laboratory. They then regenerated the lung over the course of a month using the recipient pig's cells to create biological tissue that the pig's immune system will see as its own.

For the first time, a team of U.S. scientists was able to grow a lung, along with working blood vessels, and then keep it breathing inside a pig. This took 30 days inside a bioreactor tank, where the lungs were pumped with nutrients. The medical condition of the animals was assessed at ten hours, two weeks, one month, and two months following the operation, which allowed the team to construct a timeline of the lung tissue's development.


Next, scientists removed a single lung from each of the "patient" pigs to harvest the stem cells needed to bioengineer the new lungs.

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

Within two weeks, the transplanted lungs had already begun to establish the robust networks of blood vessels they need to survive.

"We were also able to improve from small animal studies to then transplanting them into a larger animal with a larger lung". But the researchers said it may be possible to grow lungs to transplant into people within five to 10 years. 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".

Bioengineered organs are something of a holy grail in transplantation research.

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

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