Research team successfully grows human lung in lab


[](Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with the University of Texas has, for the first time, successfully grown a human lung in a lab. Project leads Dr. Joaquin Cortiella and Dr. Joan Nichols announced the landmark breakthrough to various members of the press this past week, describing the procedure and what was achieved.


My only concern here is where they got the stem cells from - the article doesn’t specify. If it is an ethical source, though… :thumbsup:


I looked around for other stories, which identified the source as “two deceased children.”


Yes, and I am not sure that stem cells were involved.

Quoting from a local news report:

  • How did they do it? They started with a damaged lung.

“We removed all the cells all the material in it, and just left the skeleton of the lung, or the scaffold, behind – the pieces of the lungs that are no cells. That’s why it’s so white and pretty and there’s no blood in it, it’s very pretty looking. And then we added back cells from another lung that couldn’t be used for transplant but still had some viable cells in it,” said Dr. Joan Nichols, who leads the UTMB team. *

Regardless, it will be a major breakthough if the lungs grown in this method are shown to be functional.


Yes, that seems to be true. Here is a description of the work which was done:

  • The 2010 research involved destroying the cells of rat lungs by repeatedly freezing and thawing and then “reseeding” the lungs with embryonic stem cells from mice.

Following that work up with similar but more large-scale experiments on pig lungs, the researchers now applied the same regenerative engineering principles to human lungs.

Taking lungs from two children who had died from trauma (most likely a car accident), the researchers stripped one of the lungs down to a bare “skeleton” of just collagen and elastin - the main proteins in connective tissue.

Using this stripped-down lung as a “scaffold,” they then harvested cells from the other lung, which were applied to the scaffolding.

This lung structure was then placed in a chamber filled with a nutritious liquid, which Nichols describes as "resembling Kool-Aid.*

The purpose of this research is to grow diseased lungs which can be used to test stem-cell therapies.



To “grow a lung” implies that you take a few cells and subject them to the right conditions, chemical and physical, that would coax them to differentiate into lung tissue and grow into a lung. That is not quite what happened here. To use a proteinaceous scaffold is a great discovery and I hope it works well, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.


The progress being made revolves around using existing, healthy tissue to grow a replacement organ for the patient. Any stem cells would be derived from the patient, such as a bladder:



These were adult stem cells taken from the lung of someone who had been killed in a car crash. " Healthy cells were then taken from the second lung and applied to the scaffolding. Once thoroughly coated, the lung-to-be was placed in a glass tank full of a nutrient-rich solution where it soaked for four weeks. During that time, new cell growth filled in the "

Apparantly some lab grown organs have already been transplanted, but these were not complex organs like the lung.



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