By Thomas Lee
Researchers at the Masonic Cancer Center and medical school in at the University of Minnesota have grown breathing lungs from a rat in the laboratory, the second time in two years the university has achieved a potentially significant breakthrough in organ science.
In 2008, Dr. Doris Taylor drew international attention for successfully growing ’ and keeping alive ’ a beating rat’s heart in a jar. Taylor’s work has fueled hopes that scientists can one day grow replacement organs for patients who would typically wait for transplants. The university this year spun off Miromatrix Inc., a start-up mean to commercialize Dr. Taylor’s work.
This time, researchers used methods similar to Taylor’s technology. The scientists stripped cells from a rat’s lung, a process known as decellularization, leaving only a scaffold of the original organ. Researchers then implanted stem cells from unborn mice into the scaffold, which grew into breathing lungs with the help of a tiny, makeshift ventilator.
“What we did is develop a decellularized murine lung matrix bioreactor system that could be used to evaluate the potential of stem cells to regenerate lung tissue,” lead scientist Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari said in prepared remarks.
Mortari envisions growing healthy lungs that can be implanted into patients suffering from irreversible lung diseases like emphysema, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, primary pulmonary arterial hypertension and cystic fibrosis.
The researchers’ work can be found in recent online issue of the >Journal Tissue Engineering.