Bioengineers Successfully Complete First Ever Lab-Grown Lung Transplant

Leslie Hanson
August 5, 2018

The team noticed the pigs' bodies didn't reject the new lungs, despite not using immunosuppressants to help keep rejection rates low - a technique that's common in transplants.

The doctors are hoping that within a decade, lab-grown human lungs will be transplanted into patients to save them from chronic lung diseases, cystic fibrosis and anything that threatens life and lungs.

In the USA alone, more than 1,400 people are waiting for a lung transplant - there simply aren't enough donor lungs available to meet the need. It still uses a donor lung at its core, but due to a stem cell fueled regenerative process established by the researchers, the number of lungs that could be used for transplant should no longer be as limited. To do this, they removed all of the cells and blood from pig lungs using a mix of sugar and detergent.

On Wednesday, researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch published a new paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine. They created lung scaffolds of pig lungs by removed all the cells and blood from pig lungs and then placed them in a Value-Added Tax of nutrients.

"We were also able to improve from small animal studies to then transplanting them into a larger animal with a larger lung". After the lung scaffolds were placed in a tank with a mixture of nutrients and the animals' own cells, the bioengineered lungs were grown in a bioreactor for 30 days before the transplants took place. Animal recipients were survived for 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after transplantation, allowing the research team to examine development of the lung tissue following transplantation and how the bioengineered lung would integrate with the body.


During the experiment, the pigs' left lungs were transplanted alongside a bioengineered lung.

"We saw no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough", said Nichols and Cortiella. But they next want to study the long-term viability of the organs. Scientists believe that if they secure adequate funding for their research they will have managed to transplant laboratory lungs into humans in five to ten years from today.

"It has taken a lot of heart and 15 years of research to get us this far".

By using the pig's own cells, the researchers meant to avoid organ rejection by the pig's immune system. Dr Nichols stated. "After 6 months to a year, we can bring the animals back, anesthetize them and block off their normal lung, forcing them to breathe and oxygenate using only the bioengineered lung".

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