GALVESTON, Texas, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch say they have created human lungs in a lab for the first time.
If tests show the lungs work, they could be used to help the more than 1,600 people awaiting a lung transplant -- but the artificial lungs will not likely won't help patients for many years, CNN reported.
"It's so darn cool," said Joan Nichols, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. "It's been science fiction and we're moving into science fact."
Nichols said researchers took lungs from two children who'd died from trauma and stripped one of all damaged tissue, leaving a scaffolding made of collagen and elastin. They then took cells from the other lung and put them on the scaffolding, immersed them in a liquid filled with nutrients to support cell growth and waited.
The lungs that grew look just like natural lungs, but are pinker, softer and less dense, Nichols said.
It will probably be about 12 years before artificially created lungs will be used for transplants, Nichols said.
"My students will be doing the work when I'm old and retired and can't hold a pipette [dropper] anymore," she said.