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New device for growing replacement lungs

By Tim Sandle     Oct 8, 2016 in Health
The idea of developing artificial lungs for organ donation remains a goal for the medical establishment, given that a high proportion of people die due to the scarcity of available lungs. A new technique brings this closer.
The idea of growing replacement lungs, grown from the cells of the person who needs them, in a laboratory and then transferring these into the patient falls within the field of regenerative medicine.
This could come about by using a patient’s own cells to create new organs in decellularized scaffolds. To achieve this a device would be required to hold the lungs and allow them to grow.
This is the basis of studies conducted at Yale University. The study to date has been a proof of concept one: to see if lungs can be grown and held under stable conditions. According Dr. Sam Brickman Raredon “It’s a thought experiment. How can you replicate the lungs in a human body?” The researcher then adds, in conversation with Biotechnqiues, “The most important thing for developing successful organ culture is very careful manual work. It's like surgery; how you handle the organ is critical, and it can be hard to replicate results, so the next step is to incorporate automation
This has taken the form of a bioreactor, and in trials rat and pig lungs have been supported of a period of over 24 hours. The bioreactor not only preserves lungs for a far greater period than has previously been possible, it can also be used for organ regeneration.
The bioreactor contains culture media and it achieves preservation through control of environmental conditions, such as pH, and it prevents microbial contamination. The lung is kept active through the control of breathing and perfusion, which are necessary for maintaining tissue integrity. More details are shown in this video:
The reason that considerable investment and research has gone into this area is because current organ transplantation has a very narrow time window, assuming that there are suitable lungs for transplantation available at a particular point in time. The next phase will move beyond rat lungs and test human lungs using a larger reactor.
The research to date has been published in the journal BioResearch Open Access. The research is titled “Culture Reactor for Whole-Lung Engineering.”
More about Lungs, Organ donation, donated lungs, Biology
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