Scientists can now grow artificial, but human-like, mini lungs, and place them into mice! The findings, published in eLife, could constitute a weapon against lung disease.
These tiny lungs are similar to human cells in various aspects. Senior author Jason Spence describes them as being “indistinguishable from human adult tissue“. The mini organs were made through a number of signalling pathways pertaining to cell growth and the formation of organs dealing with stem cells. This was the culmination of previous work conducted by the team who had already made rudimentary mini lungs with structures resembling bronchi and alveoli. Their latest work is a much improved version because the structures that matured from the lungs inside the mice’s bodies were more organised. The lungs were also more refined as they contained specialised cells of the respiratory system such as goblet anc ciliated cells.
“In just eight weeks, the resulting transplanted tissue had impressive tube-shaped airway structures similar to the adult lung airways,” says lead author Briani Dye.
The study is hoped to be a huge step forward in the fight against respiratory diseases which are among the most common death causes worldwide. Furthermore, lung cancer more specifically remains specially deadly, and the mini lungs might be an answer to the need for more effective ways to treat the disease. How do these transplanted lungs actually benefit us? It is not like we can transplant them into humans. Rather, as the scientists explain, we can use them as human models to test drugs, and to delve deeper into gene function and diseases like asthma. Also, they could be the ‘raw materials’ for tissues that could possibly be transplanted.
However, more experimenting is needed as the alveoli of the mini lungs did not grow in the mice.