Doctored lungs for pigs could cut transplant waiting lists

05 Août, 2018, 15:40 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Lungs being grown in the lab

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. They also collected lung cells from the same pigs that would later receive transplants.

In research published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the U of Texas researchers say they used a lung scaffold - literally the outer casing of lung tissue, called the extracellular matrix - and coated it with a concoction of growth factors and chemicals that stimulate the cells to turn into lung cells.

The researchers hope that bioengineered lung transplants will be feasible in humans within a decade. And that could make the transplant waiting list a thing of the past. If all is well, in the near future, we might finally have a solution to the organ transplant crisis hospitals across the globe have been facing for years.

"This is the first time someone has transplanted a whole bioengineered organ", Joan Nichols, associate director of the Galveston National Laboratory at University of Texas Medical Branch, told Digital Trends. The researchers euthanized the recipient animals and tested their lungs 10 hours, two weeks, and one and two months following transplantation. Lungs that were not considered suitable previously can still be used in this process to create a healthy DNA-matched lung for the organ recipient. This eliminated the cells and blood in the lung, leaving just a lungshaped scaffold of proteins behind.

There was no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough, according to the researchers.

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For 30 days, the bioengineered lungs grew in a bioreactor before being transplanted into adult pigs.

This study was only meant to evaluate how well a bioengineered lung could adapt to an adult host organism, with positive results so far.

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.

As early as two weeks post-transplant, the bioengineered lung had established the network of blood vessels needed for the lung to survive.

The researchers said that with enough funding, they could grow lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances within 5 to 10 years. They'll need more studies to see how the lab-made lungs fare years down the road.

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