A human built lung has been successfully transplanted into an individual.

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The individual is a pig, and one of several where things didn’t go so well, but this is a fairly spectacular result.

This isn’t a lung developed from scratch, quite. A lung is taken from a donor pig. That pig, of course, loses its lung and presumably is converted to other uses such as ham. That lung is then sripped of cells and liquid tissues, leaving just the connected tissues that make up a sort of non-cellular skeleton.

This skeleton is then seeded with cells and growth factors and such, and the cells find their proper location and re-constitute a pig lung.

This is not an ideal scenario for a lung transplant in a human, but it is a step in the right direction. The way it would work for humans is probably like this: You get a pig lung and remove the cells and blood. You get some cells from the recipient and bio-engineer them. Perhaps you remove the genes that cause the recipient to have a bad lung to begin with. You further bio-engineer the lungs to properly divide and propagate and migrate, to move the correct locations with the pig-lung-skeleton. Then you stick that lung in the recipient and sis-bam-boom, new lung.

The summary from the original paper:

Lungs are complex organs to engineer: They contain multiple specialized cell types in extracellular matrix with a unique architecture that must maintain compliance during respiration. Nichols et al. tackled the challenges of vascular perfusion, recellularization, and engraftment of tissue-engineered lungs in a clinically relevant pig model. Nanoparticle and hydrogel delivery of growth factors promoted cell adhesion to whole decellularized pig lung scaffolds. Autologous cell–seeded bioengineered lungs showed vascular perfusion via collateral circulation within 2 weeks after transplantation. The transplanted bioengineered lungs became aerated and developed native lung-like microbiomes. One pig had no respiratory symptoms when euthanized a full 2 months after transplant. This work represents a considerable advance in the lung tissue engineering field and brings tissue-engineered lungs closer to the realm of clinical possibility.

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