Every year, thousands of people in the United States die while waiting on the seemingly endless waitlist for an organ donation. But new research into lab-grown organs brings a future in which the waitlist is no longer necessary one step closer, NBC News reports.
A team of Texas researchers found that bioengineered lungs could be transplanted into pigs without a severe immune reaction or other medical issues. Four pigs survived for nearly two months using lab-grown lungs—a promising result for the field.
“Whole organ transplants such as this had never been done before with a positive result,” said internal medicine professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Joan Nichols. “That was a very good first try.”
Nichols and her co-authors published the paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine. As they explained in the study, the lungs weren't actually capable of respiration. Each pig had to breathe using only its right lung, while its left lung was replaced by the lab-grown one.
The ability to create organs that the body was able to respond positively toward was the first step for researchers. Now, creating one that functions properly is the next major step to the adoption of artificial lungs.
“Once we’ve done that, there’s no reason why we couldn’t be able to produce two lungs that are capable for the animal to breathe,” said senior author and director of the UTMB Lab of Tissue Engineering and Organ Regeneration Joaquin Cortiella.
“In my mind, we’re still probably 20 years away from a first in-man human-engineered lung," said Yale anesthesiology and biomedical engineering professor and researcher Laura Niklason.