BREAKTHROUGH: Human lungs regenerated in laboratory for the first time ever
Practical application for humans many years off just yet
It's the stuff of science fiction, which alas, will have no practical application on human beings for several years. Scientists have successfully generated human lungs in a laboratory setting. If the lungs actually work, they could help the more than 1,600 people awaiting a lung transplant. Lungs are one of many body parts being manufactured in the lab, along with tracheas and livers, which are even further along.
According to Dr. Stephen Badylak, deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, "Whole-organ engineering is going to work as a solution to the organ donor shortage."
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Galveston, Texas researchers started with lungs from two children who'd died from trauma, most likely a car accident, Nichols said. Too damaged to be used for transplantation, their lungs did have some healthy tissue.
They took one of the lungs and stripped away nearly everything, leaving a scaffolding of collagen and elastin. They then took cells from the other lung and put them on the scaffolding. They immersed the structure in a large chamber filled with a liquid "resembling Kool-Aid," Nichols said, which provided nutrients for the cells to grow. An engineered human lung emerged after four weeks.
Repeating the process, they created another lung from two other children who'd died.
The new lungs, Nichols says, look pinker, softer and less dense than organic lungs.
There's a rub: Nichols said she thinks it will be another 12 years or so until they'll be ready to try using these lungs for transplants. "My students will be doing the work when I'm old and retired and can't hold a pipette anymore," she said.
Before researchers experiment on humans, they'll try out lab-made lungs on pigs, Nichols says.
Doctors have already had success transplanting patients with synthetic tracheas. The first procedure was done in 2011, and since then, six more have been done.
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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