TX: Scientists grow lungs in laboratory

Galveston, TX (KTRK) — For the first time, scientists in Texas have successfully grown human lungs in a lab.

The video shows working lungs that UTMB scientists grew in a lab.

Growing organs may seem like science fiction-but it’s the goal of medical researchers because so many people need organ transplants and many die waiting for one.

“The most exciting part is to shorten the time people have to wait for an organ transplant,” Dr. Joaquin Cortiella, UTMB Regenerative Medicine Team said.

How did they do it? They started with a damaged lung.

“We removed all the cells all the material in it, and just left the scaffold behind, the pieces of the lungs that are no cells. That’s why it’s so white and pretty and no blood in it, it’s very pretty looking. And then we added back cells from another lung that couldn’t be used for transplant but still had some viable cells in it,” Dr. Joan Nichols, UTMB Research Team said.

But it took months until a UTMB medical student named Michael Riddle built a piece of equipment that sped the process.

“He’s the one that actually went home and actually built, I’m not kidding, using a fish tank he went and bought from a pet store, is what he built the first piece of equipment,” Dr. Nichols said.

“Took about 4 months to take the cells from the lung to where all you have is a bioscaffold and we took that process down to about three days,” Dr. Michael Riddle, Jr. said.

UTMB scientists grew those first human lungs in the last last year, this is the first report on the successful project.

“But it’s taken us a year to prove to ourselves that we actually did a good job with it… and so you don’t run out immediately and tell the world we have something wonderful until we proved it to ourselves that we really did something pretty amazing,” Dr. Nichols said.

Scientists hope to transplant the first set of lab-grown lungs in animals this year or next.

It’s not clear when they could be ready to save humans.

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