This line of research on bioengineered lungs could eventually lead to more options for people who need a lung transplant, according to the team at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston. Researchers are considering the possibilities of using donor lungs, or a 3D print of a "scaffolding" to work from when it comes to producing similar results in humans. The pig (and future patients) will benefit from having a transplanted lung that is tailored to their own genetics.
"The number of people with severe lung problems has risen globally, while the number of organs available for transplantation has declined". Already two weeks after transplantation, the laboratory lung had created the necessary blood vessel network that allowed it to survive in the body, which prevented the risk of pulmonary edema.
To grow the organs in the lab, scientists took the lung of a separate pig and stripped it of its blood and cells using a special mix of sugar and detergent, so that only the "skeleton" remained.
As early as two weeks after being transplanted, the bioengineered lungs created a network of blood vessels they needed to survive, according to the study published August 1 in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Then cells from the recipient pigs real lungs were added and left the lungs to grow for 30 days.
The researchers assessed the development of lung tissue and integration of the bioengineered lungs at 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after the transplants. However, the transplanted lungs developed blood vessels and connected to the rest of the pigs' vascular system, according to Popular Science.
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During two months of post-transplant observation, the researchers found no signs that the animals' immune systems had rejected the new lungs.
"In these studies, we talk about producing human lungs using human scaffolds", Dr Nichols explained. But they next want to study the long-term viability of the organs.
"It has taken a lot of heart and 15 years of research to get this far", said Nichols and Cortiella.
"We do know that the animals had 100 percent oxygen saturation, as they had one normal functioning lung", said Cortiella.
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.