Texas scientists grow lungs

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Friday, February 14, 2014 - 11:06am

For the first time, scientists in Texas have successfully grown human lungs in a lab.

Look closely, you are watching working lungs that UTMB scientists grew in a lab. Those are pig lungs, and these white lungs are human lungs they grew in the lab too. Listen closely, you can hear the thump of air moving in and out of them.

Growing organs may seem like science fiction, but it's the goal of medical researchers because so many people need organ transplants and many die waiting for one.

"The most exciting part is to shorten the time people have to wait for an organ transplant." said Dr. Joaquin Cortiella, with the UTMB Regenerative Medicine Team.

But you may be wondering, how did they do it? They started with a damaged lung.

"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. That's why it's so white and pretty and no blood in it, it's very pretty looking. And then we added back cells from another lung that couldn't be used for transplant but still had some viable cells in it." said Dr. Joan Nichols.

But it took months, until a UTMB Medical Student named Michael Riddle built a piece of equipment that sped the process.

He's the one that actually went home and actually built I'm not kidding using a fish tank he went and bought from a pet store, is what he built the first piece of equipment.

Took about 4 months to take the cells from the lung to where all you have is a bioscaffold and we took that process down to about three days.

UTMB Scientists grew those first human lungs in the last year. It's taken us a year to prove to ourselves that we actually did a good job with it.. and so you don't run out immediately and tell the world we have something wonderful until we proved it to ourselves that we really did something pretty amazing.

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