Scientists transplant lab-grown lungs into pigs - they worked fine


Researchers have transplanted bioengineered lungs into pigs successfully for the first time, according to a study published this week (August 1) in Science Translational Medicine.

The same research team was the first in 2014 to have successfully created human lungs in the laboratory through biomedical technology. This puts us one step closer to providing human patients in dire need of a transplant with the organs they need to survive. The bioengineered lungs were grown in a bioreactor for 30 days prior to transplantation. A support scaffold was created using a lung from an unrelated animal that was treated using a special mixture of sugar and detergent to eliminate all cells and blood in the lung, leaving only the scaffolding proteins or skeleton of the lung behind.

Scientists have once again proved the seemingly impossible is possible, growing lungs in a lab and then transplanting them into pigs. Blood vessels and lung tissue cells were "repopulated", according to Science News.

The team harvested lungs from dead pigs to construct a scaffold for the bioengineered lung to hold fast to.

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Once the four pigs got their personalized organs, Nichols, Cortiella and their collaborators kept tabs on the porcine patients, checking in 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after surgery.

This study was only meant to evaluate how well a bioengineered lung could adapt to an adult host organism, with positive results so far.

"We saw no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough", said Nichols and Cortiella. Already at two weeks, the bioengineered lung had integrated itself into the blood system and was colonized by the bacteria that make up the natural biome of the lung.

This paves the way for future studies that will allow the recipient animals to live for longer durations, providing data on long-term transplant success or issues.

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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). They'll need more studies to see how the lab-made lungs fare years down the road.

The research took 15 years to complete with countless failed attempts, but the breakthrough could solve the organ donor crisis.

The obvious interest of this research is how this translates into medical applications for human transplants.

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