A team led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers has built a functioning artificial rat lung and successfully transplanted it into living rats, where it functioned for six hours.
The work, published online today in the journal Nature Medicine, follows two recent scientific reports of success in replicating lung tissue, including work by Yale researchers that used the same technique.
In the new paper, researchers took a lung from a rat and used it as a scaffold for building new lung. They carefully washed away all the cells, and then reseeded the matrix left behind with cells from a fetal rat lung. They transplanted the lung into rats and saw the lung function for up to six hours.
“Our experiment shows that the rat is able to breathe with that lung, using its own muscles,” said Dr. Harald Ott, a surgical resident at Mass. General.
About 2,000 patients in the United States are awaiting a lung transplant, and 50 million people worldwide live with end-stage lung disease, making the quest to create an artificial lung ever more urgent. Ott said that next steps include finding a way to make precursor cells that give rise to lung cells from a patient’s own cells and other technical hurdles involved in scaling up such techniques from a rat to a human lung.
His team’s paper, in tandem with the Yale researchers' paper in which the rat lung functioned for up to two hours, are important because they both were successful.
“It validates this approach; it shows that I’m not crazy,” Ott said. “Which is important, because there’s a lot of enthusiasm around organ engineering, and lots of optimistic statements flying around.”
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