Scientists in the USA 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.
While six bioengineered lungs were created in total, only for of the pigs were able to have them transplanted due to surgical issues.
Next, scientists removed a single lung from each of the "patient" pigs to harvest the stem cells needed to bioengineer the new lungs.
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston, led by Professor Joan Nichols, published the publication in the American Medical Journal "Science Translational Medicine". The lungs started growing when they added cells from the recipent pigs' lungs and then they transplanted them after 30 days of growth. The pig (and future patients) will benefit from having a transplanted lung that is tailored to their own genetics.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant. That could prove invaluable to hospitals, which could end shortages of viable organs and improve their long-term transplant survival rates. "The bioengineered lung facilitates the development of a blood supply and provides for the establishment of natural lung microbial flora", John Hunt, who studies tissue engineering at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom and was not involved in this research, tells BBC News. This left them with just the proteins of each lung - essentially, its skeleton. 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.
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This study was only meant to evaluate how well a bioengineered lung could adapt to an adult host organism, with positive results so far.
There was no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough, according to the researchers. Already at two weeks, the bioengineered lung had integrated itself into the blood system and was colonized by the bacteria that make up the natural biome of the lung. This is an encouraging advance in the field of organ and tissue transplantation and transplantation.
The research took 15 years to complete with countless failed attempts, but the breakthrough could solve the organ donor crisis.
"Bioengineered lungs can be made at any time so an individual does not have to wait until an organ is available for them".