Researchers were able to develop bioengineered lungs that they successfully transplanted into adult pigs without any medical complication.
On Wednesday, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch announced in a paper that they’ve successfully transplanted bioengineered lungs into four adult pigs without complications. According to the researchers, the new medical technique could potentially solve the shortage of organs for medical transplantation.
In the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers explained in details how the lab-grown lungs were constructed from the lung scaffolding of another pig.
The team made the scaffolds by stripping the lungs of a dead donor pig of its blood and tissue cells using a mixture of sugar and detergent. The process left the scientists with a bare-bones framework of proteins.
The team, headed by Dr. Joan Nichols, also collected lung cells from the pigs that would receive the transplant. Then, to create the artificial lungs, they placed the lung cells together with the mixture of nutrients and scaffolds inside a bioreactor tank. The researchers allowed the three biomaterials to mingle inside the tank for 30 days, creating a set of customized lungs.
“In these studies, we talk about producing human lungs using human scaffolds. We discard large numbers of lungs each day that do not meet the requirements for transplantation. These can be used to produce scaffolds or, if there are still cells, we can bank the lung and vascular cells from these lungs to bioengineer new lungs,” Dr. Nichols said in a statement.
Two weeks after the lab-grown lungs were transplanted, the researchers noted that they’ve already created a network of blood vessels to survive. The bioengineered lungs were assessed after 10 hours, two weeks, one month, and two months after the transplant. All of the four adult pigs were found to be healthy during the said observation periods.
Dr. Nichols and her team are now planning to conduct a long-term study in which 10 to 15 pigs will be given bioengineered lungs using the same procedure.