Bioengineered Lungs Successfully Transplanted Into Pigs

Henrietta Strickland
August 5, 2018

A team of scientists made artificial lungs and then transplanted them into pigs (not this one). "This is the first time a whole bioengineered lung has been transplanted". Each pig received one bioengineered lung and retained an original lung.

On Wednesday, researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch published a new paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine. To do this, they removed all of the cells and blood from pig lungs using a mix of sugar and detergent.

Unfortunately, it's often the case that more people need organ transplants than there are available organ transplants, leaving many to wait on a list for months or even years, some patients passing away before an organ becomes available.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant. This technique could possibly be used in the future to respond to the shortage of organs for transplantation.

"Our ultimate goal is to eventually provide new options for many people awaiting a transplant", said Nichols, professor of internal medicine and associate director of the Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB.

The finished bioengineered lung - featuring cells from the patient - was then transplanted into the pigs. "Somewhere down the line someday", says Nichols in a press announcement, "we may be able to take cells from somebody, maybe it's their stem cells, and produce an organ that is their organ, tissue-matched to them with no immune suppression needed that would function the way their own lung originally did". 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. As early as two weeks post-transplant, the bioengineered lung had established the strong network of blood vessels needed for the lung to survive. Blood vessels and lung tissue cells were "repopulated", according to Science News.

"We saw no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough", the researchers wrote. Dr Nichols stated. "After 6 months to a year, we can bring the animals back, anesthetize them and block off their normal lung, forcing them to breathe and oxygenate using only the bioengineered lung".

Given that some organs can not be transplanted from a living person to another (such as the heart), this narrows down the availability options even more, which is one of the reasons why the black market on organs is thriving.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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