The Mad Science of Lab-Grown Lungs

Finding stories medically relevant to this site on science fiction blogs is always entertaining.

In this instance, I’m talking about io9’s fascinating piece on the first lab-grown lungs that actually work.

The creation process:

Led by biomedical engineer Laura Niklason, a team at Yale constructed the tiny lungs for rats using a relatively new process called “decellularization.” By rinsing organs in detergent, all the cellular material is washed away, leaving behind a fibrous, white structure that can be used as a scaffold to build organs out of fetal cells. The researchers used decellularized lung scaffolds, and grew new lungs with “a mixture” of fetal rat cells which formed tissues and blood vessels while the scaffolds were inside a bioreactor.

The lungs developed and then worked more or less like real ones, and by “worked,” I mean lab rats could actually breathe with them for a couple of hours.

Scientists have plenty of major kinks to work out, but future implications for organ transplantation could be huge.

74 responses to “The Mad Science of Lab-Grown Lungs”

  1. Samantha says:

    UTMB-Galveston here in Tx just announced decellularized rat lungs, grown with mouse stem cells, and says they are now working toward being able to fully vascularize them and do pig lungs next. Yeah its a ways off but think how amazing this could be in the future!

  2. kerri says:

    That is SUPER cool. I also wonder if with something like this, they would be able to greatly minimize or even stop altogether the issue of rejection.

    Come on science-y brain people, keep working! I wanna see where this is going! :-D

  3. Sarah says:

    Kerri, the cool thing is that you can make stem cells that are essentially identical to embryonic stem cells (called “induced pluripotent stem cells”) from adult cells… so it’s concievable that, in the future, they could grow these lungs from a person’s own cells. How cool is that? 8D

  4. Samantha says:

    The other interesting thing the UTMB crowd said was that they wanted to do lungs because they are complex and therefore some of the hardest organs to “grow”. So if they can do lungs, think what other organs they can do!

  5. Elisheva says:

    Wow! That’s pretty cool if I do say so myself. Way to go scientists!

  6. MC says:

    Wow, this blows my mind. Growing lungs??

  7. Sara C. says:

    that is so super cool…I know organ recipients, and the wait is SO hard…and then, when you get an organ, it’s got sadness attached to it…because while everyone is glad that their friend/loved one is better…there is the knowledge that someone else’s son/daughter/mom/dad…whomever, had to die to allow you to live. It would be so awesome if they could use stem cells to grow organs identical to a patients…so that rejection wouldn’t happen. Wow…the possibilities are mind boggling.

  8. Amy says:

    Let me repeat: I found this on a science fiction blog. And yet it’s actually happening now – how amazing is that?

    Thanks for the extra info, Samantha & Sarah.

Leave a Reply