Lungs are very difficult to study because of their bubbly, fragile alveolar nature. They’re challenging to sustain outside the body and difficult to study while inside. Researchers at the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center have developed a technique for growing lung-like tissue that in many ways resembles real lungs.
While two dimensional Petri-dish studies are routinely conducted on lung cells, many of the mechanisms that seem to occur within living lungs cannot be recreated in such an environment. The three-dimensional organoids created by the UCLA team may help overcome this limitation and provide a model on which to study lung diseases and potential therapies.
To create the organelles the team coated hydrogel beads with stem cells harvested from adult lungs. The coated beads were placed into vesicles seven millimeters in diameter and positioned next to each othere where the cells were allowed to grow all around the beads. As they grew they linked to other cells grown around nearby beads, creating a volumetric structure of lung cells.
These structures were compared to real lungs, and as you can see in the histological image above they’re pretty similar.
Because the method is pretty easy, the researchers believe they can quickly create patient-specific lung mimics that may soon be used to test drugs and other therapies specifically on each patient’s cell types.
Study in journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine: Development of a Three-Dimensional Bioengineering Technology to Generate Lung Tissue for Personalized Disease Modeling…