Some tissue types have the ability to have their cells populate a synthetically created scaffold or re-populate decellularized tissue harvested elsewhere. Bioengineered lungs, on the other hand, require a vascular network to exist in order for new cells to settle and for the organ’s normal functions to take place. This has been one reason why little progress has taken place to develop a functional lab-made human lung. Now researchers at Columbia University have been able to remove the pulmonary epithelium from a rat’s lungs while preserving the vascular endothelium and its functionality along with fibroblasts, myocytes, chondrocytes, and pericytes. This allowed the researchers to retain the ability to perfuse the lung tissue and therefore for new cells to settle. Importantly, the epithelium is what typically gets diseased in the human lung, while the vasculature remains relatively healthy.
The team put a rat on a ventilator and perfused the lungs using an ex vivo lung perfusion system. One of the lungs was then perfused via the trachea with a special detergent that cleansed away the epithelium while the vasculature was defended by electrolytes and energy substrates that were introduced concurrently. The result was that one of the lungs was prepared for the successful introduction of human adult and stem cells, that thrived on the intact architecture and vasculature of the original organ.
The technology may lead to a radical improvement in how many donor lungs become viable and may also lead to therapies that treat seriously ailing hearts without resorting to transplants.
Study in journal Science Advances: Functional vascularized lung grafts for lung bioengineering…