Bioengineers Successfully Complete First Ever Lab-Grown Lung Transplant

Bioengineers Successfully Complete First Ever Lab-Grown Lung Transplant

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.

Because it was all a novel study, the team only focused on the early stages of the lung development following the transplants, so the pigs had to be euthanized in order for the researchers to see how the lungs had developed within the bodies.

A bioengineered lung is produced using a support scaffold, which the researchers explain is the "skeleton" of a lung after the cells and blood have been eliminated using a detergent/sugar mixture. Bioengineered organs are a hopeful solution to this problem, enabling needed organs to be engineered in a lab, then transplanted into the patient.

People waiting for lung transplants could soon be the recipients of lab-grown organs.

The lung scaffold was placed into a tank filled with a carefully blended cocktail of nutrients and then the animals' own cells were added to the scaffold following a carefully designed protocol or recipe. The researchers used cells from a single lung removed from each of the pigs in the study to create tissue-matched lungs for them.

The findings appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine. In 2014, they were the first to grow lung cells in a lab, and their method has been refined ever since to the point that the team is now able to bioengineer transplantable lungs. This is a lung-shaped scaffold made totally from lung proteins.

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

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The first human lung transplant procedure was performed in 1963, and the recipient survived 18 days, ultimately succumbing to renal failure and malnutrition. However, even the two-month-old transplanted lung, while not showing any fluid collection that would indicate an underdeveloped organ, had not developed enough to independently supply the animal with oxygen.

All of the pigs that received a bioengineered lung stayed healthy.

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

For this reason, future studies will look at long-term survival and maturation of the tissues as well as gas exchange capability.

"We do know that the animals had 100 percent oxygen saturation, as they had one normal functioning lung", said Cortiella.

The new findings are good news for anyone on an organ donation list, according to one of the researchers.