The organs transplanted into the pigs were built in a laboratory but were not made from scratch researchers saidTHOMAS SUEN REUTERS
05 August, 2018, 15:40
Scientists in the United States first created a "scaffold" which came from an unrelated donor pig, achieving this using a process in which all cells and blood are removed from the organ, leaving just a skeleton.
During two months of post-transplant observation, the researchers found no signs that the animals' immune systems had rejected the newlungs. Finally, they transplanted the four lab-grown lungs into the four recipient pigs.
The findings appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Although they are built in a laboratory, the lungs are not constructed from scratch.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant. Imagine hospitals growing replacement organs for humans in the future. The researchers euthanized the recipient animals and tested their lungs 10 hours, two weeks, and one and two months following transplantation. Lung transplants are particularly problematic, with the number of people requiring one increasing worldwide, while the number of available transplantable organs has decreased.
The cells used to produce each bioengineered lung came from a single lung removed from each of the study animals. 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.
The procedure first starts with a support scaffold, a protein structure of collagen and elastin onto which the new lung will grow. However, it looks like the road is still long before human bioengineered lung transplants could take place. "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. While the lungs functioned during the study, they weren't connected to pulmonary arteries.
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).
"It has taken a lot of heart and 15 years of research to get us this far, our team has done something incredible with a ridiculously small budget and an amazingly dedicated group of people", they wrote.
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