Scientists transplant lab-grown lungs into pigs

Avatar By Tyler MacDonald | 1 year ago

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch just created bioengineered lungs and transplanted them into adult pigs. The technique could become an alternative to using real organs—which are currently in short supply—during human transplants.

The team created the lungs by developing scaffolding and placing it in a nutrient tank combined with the recipient animal’s own cells mixed in. The donated lung came from an unrelated pig and it was cleaned of all cells and blood prior to its addition to the mixture.

“In these studies, we talk about producing human lungs using human scaffolds,” said Nichols, who has already conducted studies on human lung scaffolding for both children and adults.

“We discard large numbers of lungs each day that do not meet the requirements for transplantation,” he said. “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.”

The recent study is of interest due to the potential for the technique to translate into human medical transplant applications. However, using these kind of transplants requires much more research—the next step is determining the safety of the approach in terms of long-term results.

“The next step is a long-term survival study where 10-15 pigs are given one bioengineered lung using this procedure and then they are sent back to the farm for a year,” Nichols said. “After 6 months to a year, we can bring the animals back, anesthetize them and block off their normal lung, forcing them to breathe and oxygenate using only the bioengineered lung.”

The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.