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05 August 2018, 03:39 | Silvia Roy
Surgical team at UTMB during pig lung transplant
Bioengineered lungs have been successfully transplanted into pigs, in an advance that doctors hope will increase the number of organs available for humans.
According to the study, scientists created a support scaffold using a lung from an unrelated animal that was treated using a special mixture of sugar and detergent to eliminate all cells and blood in the lung, leaving only the scaffolding proteins or skeleton of the lung behind. Bioengineered organs are a hopeful solution to this problem, enabling needed organs to be engineered in a lab, then transplanted into the patient.
Scientists have once again proved the seemingly impossible is possible, growing lungs in a lab and then transplanting them into pigs.
Two months later, the lungs were still fully functioning and had 100 per cent oxygen saturation, meaning all their red blood cells were carrying oxygen through the body.
Scientists in the U.S. first created a "scaffold" which came from an unrelated donor pig, achieving this using a process in which all cells and blood are removed from the organ, leaving just a skeleton.
The team, led by Joan Nichols and Joaquin Cortiella, built on previous work published in 2016, when they announced they'd bioengineered a human lung in the lab.
Once the four pigs got their personalized organs, Nichols, Cortiella and their collaborators kept tabs on the porcine patients, checking in 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after surgery. However, the transplanted lungs developed blood vessels and connected to the rest of the pigs' vascular system, according to Popular Science. "We discard large numbers of lungs each day that do not meet the requirements for transplantation".
This study was only meant to evaluate how well a bioengineered lung could adapt to an adult host organism, with positive results so far.
For this reason, future studies will look at long-term survival and maturation of the tissues as well as gas exchange capability. But the researchers said it may be possible to grow lungs to transplant into people within five to 10 years. 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". Besides transplants, bioengineered lungs are a great testing medium for experimental drugs, another line of work that can save countless lives.
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