Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Bioengineered Lungs Successfully Transplanted Into Pigs

Bioengineered Lungs Successfully Transplanted Into Pigs

In a landmark study of regenerative medicine, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) have transplanted bioengineered lungs into adult pigs, with no visible complications.

The finished bioengineered lung - featuring cells from the patient - was then transplanted into the pigs.

The researchers hope that bioengineered lung transplants will be feasible in humans within a decade. Lung transplants are particularly problematic, with the number of people requiring one increasing worldwide, while the number of available transplantable organs has decreased. To create this, the researchers used a lung from an unrelated animal that was treated with a special cocktail of sugar and detergent.

Scientists have once again proved the seemingly impossible is possible, growing lungs in a lab and then transplanting them into pigs.

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. This eliminated the cells and blood in the lung, leaving just a lungshaped scaffold of proteins behind. Then cells from the recipient pigs real lungs were added and left the lungs to grow for 30 days.

"In these studies, we talk about producing human lungs using human scaffolds", Dr Nichols explained.

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. The transplants were successful and none of the pigs involved rejected the transplants. Already at two weeks, the bioengineered lung had integrated itself into the blood system and was colonized by the bacteria that make up the natural biome of the lung.

All of the pigs that received the bioengineered lung remained healthy.

This paves the way for future studies that will allow the recipient animals to live for longer durations, providing data on long-term transplant success or issues.

By using the pig's own cells, the researchers meant to avoid organ rejection by the pig's immune system.

"Here's the possibility of us making lungs for people who are waiting on that list and giving them hope", said Dr. Joaquin Cortiella, from the University of Texas medical branch.

"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.

But even after two months, the laboratory lung was not mature enough to supply the animal with oxygen.

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