Researchers Successfully Put Bioengineered Lungs Into Pigs

Lungs being grown in the lab

On Wednesday, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch published a paper announcing they'd successfully transplanted artificially grown lungs into four adult pigs without any complications. "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.

To produce a bioengineered lung, a support scaffold is needed that meets the structural needs of a lung. Once they connected the lab-grown lung to the blood supply in the host pig's body, blood flowed to the new organ. To create this, the researchers used a lung from an unrelated animal that was treated with a special cocktail of sugar and detergent. Although they are built in a laboratory, the lungs are not constructed from scratch.

The findings appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine. After that month of growth, the bioengineered lungs were transplanted into the pigs, which were then terminated at durations between 10 hours and two months to study the lung tissue developed post-transplantation.

The next step of the research is to test whether the newly grown lung works by basically blocking the function of the pig's primary lung and seeing if they can still get oxygen into their blood and to the tissues.

The team then bioengineered this structure by placing the scaffolding in a tank filled with nutrients, with the recipient animal's own cells added to the mixture. The transplants were successful and none of the pigs involved rejected the transplants.

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The study was meant to assess how well the bioengineered lungs adapted and continued to mature within a large, living body.

Within just two weeks, the organs were accepted by the pigs and had redeveloped the network of blood vessels.

There was no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough, according to the researchers. It took 30 days to foster the organs before they were ready for transplants, but they didn't need infusions to keep working. They said that they now hoped to do the same in humans within five to ten years and so help to reduce the long waiting times for people awaiting lung transplants.

"Bioengineered lungs can be made at any time so an individual does not have to wait until an organ is available for them".

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

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