University of Texas Scientists Grow Human Lung in a Lab

Lungs x ray

Science fiction is moving toward science fact, and that can be good news for a lot of people.

University of Texas scientists grew a human lung in a laboratory. Then, they did it again.

The lungs were grown from cells obtained from the lungs of children who were killed in an accident. Their lungs were too damaged to be used in transplant. Joan Nichols, a researcher at the University of Texas, Medical Branch, says it will be about 12 years before laboratory-grown lungs are ready to be used in human transplants.

If the CNN story is accurate, nobody was killed, paid money to have their body harvested, or was otherwise exploited to grow these lungs. That means there is no moral impediment to using them when they become available.

From CNN Health:

(CNN) – For the first time, scientists have created human lungs in a lab — an exciting step forward in regenerative medicine, but an advance that likely won’t help patients for many years.

“It’s so darn cool,” said Joan Nichols, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “It’s been science fiction and we’re moving into science fact.”

If the lungs work — and that’s a big if — 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 — some parts, such as tracheas and livers, are even further along.

“Whole-organ engineering is going to work as a solution to the organ donor shortage,” said Dr. Stephen Badylak, deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Image A is before new cells were reseeded. The finished product is image B.
Image A is before new cells were reseeded. The finished product is image B.

New transplant technology keeps organs ‘alive’ outside body

The researchers in Galveston, Texas, started with lungs from two children who’d died from trauma, most likely a car accident, Nichols said. Their lungs were too damaged to be used for transplantation, but they did have some healthy tissue.

They took one of the lungs and stripped away nearly everything, leaving a scaffolding of collagen and elastin.

The scientists 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. After about four weeks, an engineered human lung emerged.

 

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    To bad my brother Knight that needs a transplant, doesn’t have 12 years to wait.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Think how many lung cancer victims died before this. I lost my best friend to the disease, and the loveliest woman I ever knew to bone cancer. The ability to grow body parts in a laboratory has terrifying science-fiction implications, but it is also a blessing for future victims of illness.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        In my friend’s case, it is severe COPD, not cancer, caused by 10 years of smoking and 40 years of painting. It will certainly be a blessing to people like him when this is ready- but he’s on the list now and may not survive being on the list.

  • FW Ken

    So when dead children are in short supply and you need a lung, what are you going to do?

    • FW Ken

      Stupid me, send out to Belgium!

    • Sus_1

      Maybe they will be able to grow lungs for several people from one set of lungs.

      I’m with Manny. It’s cool but makes me squeamish!

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      ACtually, a lot of useful treatments and parts have been grown from stem cells taken from the body of the sick person him/herself. I think that is the next stage.

      • FW Ken

        Stem cells indeed hold a lot of promise for future medical advances. I might be wrong, but it seems that the media have finally realized that embryonic stem cells (which had served as a surrogate in the abortion debate) are unnecessary. In any case, this particular development seems to depend on a framework of actual lungs.

    • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

      One of the coolest discoveries of the last few years was the ability to reverse normal cells back into pluripotent (stem) cells. Nobel prize in biology for that discovery. But they are continuing to make major strides in how to quickly generate those stems cells in bulk. Once they are stem cells they can be turned into anything (theoretically) like a lung or a liver. It definitely gets me excited!

  • pagansister

    Amazing.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    On one hand this is a positive development. On the other hand, I’m personally squeamish about the ability to do this.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      It’s scary, but that is not different from any other major discovery. Electricity, the internal combustion engine, radio and television – they all have been abused, but we would not want to be without them. (Well, television, perhaps – but what we are thinking is the business structure, not the technology as such.)

  • Bill S

    Things like this keep me from being a full blown atheist. Every day we are tapping a little deeper into the mind of whoever or whatever (since it might be neither a he nor a she) from which all that is comes. I might not believe in the Christian God, but I find it hard to say that some super intelligence isn’t behind all of this.


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