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Published on : Feb 17, 2014

American scientists have succeeded in growing human lungs in a laboratory. This is being regarded as a milestone in regenerative medicine that could help ease the problems currently faced owing to shortage of organ donors. With thousands of people worldwide dying for the want of an organ, medical researchers strive to find the right kind of technology for effective organ transplant.

According to Dr Joaquin Cortiella, who works at the University of Texas’ Medical Branch, the most exciting part about such research is that it can drastically shorten the waiting period of a patient for organ transplant.

As part of this experiment, scientists used a lung that had been damaged, and separated its cells and materials to leave behind only the skeleton of the organ. Then, they added cells from a separate lung that could not be used for transplant, but still contained some cells in it. The scaffold of the lung, with a new set of cells, was immersed in a large chamber containing nutrient-providing liquid that enabled the cells to grow. The scientists noted that after nearly four weeks, a new ‘engineered’ human lung emerged.

According to Joan Nichols, a researcher on the team, the laboratory-made lungs are very similar to ‘real’ lungs, except that they have a pinker tinge, are slightly less dense and are softer than naturally occurring lungs in the human body.

However, scientists on the team think that it will not be until another 12 years that they can use these lungs for successful transplants.

The researchers will try to transplant lab made lungs on pigs, before they can experiment with human beings.