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Can we get a new lung from the laboratory in the future?
In many countries around the world, patients are waiting for a lung transplant and there are simply no donor lungs to meet this need. In the future, patients could get their new lungs from the laboratory.
Scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch and the internationally recognized Harvard University have now developed biotechnological lungs that could be used as an organ for lung transplantation. The doctors published the results of their research work in the English-language journal "Science Translational Medicine".
Transplantation in pigs has already been successful
In their current study, the researchers have achieved a true milestone on the way to the production of lungs in the laboratory for humans. They were able to successfully transplant biotechnological lungs into pigs. To make the lungs grow, the researchers first created four so-called lung scaffolds. To do this, they removed all cells and blood from the lungs of pigs. Only the proteins of each lung were preserved, the experts explain. Next, they put each scaffold in a tank that contained a special mixture of nutrients. They then added cells from the recipient pig lungs to each of the scaffolds and allowed the lungs to grow for 30 days. Finally, they transplanted the four lungs grown in the laboratory into the four recipient pigs. Within two weeks, the transplanted lungs had already started building the robust networks of blood vessels they need to survive.
More research is needed
During the two-month observation after the transplant, the researchers found no evidence that the animals' immune systems had rejected the new lungs. The experts are now planning to examine the long-term viability of the organs.
Biotechnical organs the holy grail of transplantation?
Biotechnical organs are a kind of holy grail in transplant research. Because they come from the recipient's cells, the body is less likely to reject the organ. In addition, new organs can be grown in the laboratory if necessary. In other words, the development means that there will be no more organ bottlenecks in the future.
When will human-made lungs be available?
If the experiments on the pigs go as expected, the researchers believe that they could be only five to ten years away from creating lab-grown lungs to transplant into people with life-threatening conditions. Finally, biotechnological lungs could completely replace the donor cells. And that could make the transplant waiting list a thing of the past. (as)