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Scientists Make First Ever Lab-Grown Lungs

09-07-2014
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Scientists at the University of Texas have discovered how to grow human lungs in a lab.

Growing lungs in a lab may be the newest and best hope for lung transplants, since so many of the donated lungs are too damaged to be transplanted.

Surprisingly, however, damaged lungs are the ones that scientists start with and improve upon.

"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," Dr. Joan Nichols, with the medical branch of the University of Texas, explained.

"That's why it's so white and pretty and no blood in it - it's very pretty looking," she continued. "Then we added back cells from another lung that couldn't be used for transplant but still had some viable cells in it."

At first the process of growing a lung took four months.

But Michael Riddle, a medical student working on the project, figured out how to speed up the process to just three days. He used a fish tank he bought from a pet store as part of his equipment.

The end result was fascinating. A close listen reveals the "thump- thump" of air moving in and out of the laboratory grown lungs.

Scientists say it might take up to 10 years before lab-grown lungs are ready to save human lives. The first step is to successfully transplant lab-grown lungs in animals.

More than a 100,000 men, women and children are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

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