Lab-grown lungs were successfully implanted into a pig like never before

Fist time in the history of biology, scientists succeeded in implanting a lab-grown lung into a pig surgically.

The implanted bioengineered lungs were described online on 1 August in Science Translational Medicine. The science translational medicine succeeded in developing healthy blood vessels that allowed the pig to survive for several weeks after the surgery that too without any medical complications. This shows great improvement as the bioengineered lung that was implanted before this one could not make it for even a hour. It failed even before it could be able to form the complex blood vessel network which is essential for a longer time to survive.

If the new technique can be used for humans, by using the recipient’s own cells, the risk of tissue rejection will reduce to a very low level. This have another significant benefit, it will also provide an alternate way for people who need lung implants to survive. Many such people stay in the waiting list for an average time span of few months. Currently in the USA, 1,500 people are in the waiting list for a lung transplant. This shows how difficult it is to find the perfect donor. But using the own cells of the recipient can solve this problem too.

“This study really brings the whole research field to the next level,” said Xi “Charlie” Ren, who is a biomedical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh but is not involved in the work.

This study was undergone by an immunologist named Joan Nichols who is at the University of Texas Medical Brand situated at Galveston. Joan Nichols and his team built lungs for four different pigs. But firstly, a sugar and detergent mixture was used to strip the cells from the lungs of the donor pig. This resulted in sterilized, whitish, scaffolds that were made of intercellular proteins and were lung shaped. After that the researchers repopulated the scaffolds with the blood vessel and lung tissue cells from the recipient pig.

Each of the bioengineered lung had to be placed in a bioreactor tank for 30 days so that it could grow with all the nutrients. These nutrients allowed the cells to get attached to the scaffolds and also multiply at the right regions. After this was successfully done, the researchers replaced each of the four pig’s left lung with the bioengineered lung.

After the surgery was successfully performed, one pig survived for 10 hours, second one for two weeks, the third one for a single month, and the fourth one for two whole months. None of the pigs were given immunosuppressant drugs, even after that tissue rejection did not take place in any of the four pigs. After the death of each pig, the researchers performed an autopsy to know how the pig’s body integrated after the bioengineered lung implantation.

“The next step is hooking the organ up to the pulmonary artery” to make sure that bioengineered lungs get enough oxygen into the blood as well as normal lungs, Niklason said.

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