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Researchers find bioreactor supports whole lung regeneration

Growing whole sets of lungs, or other organs, could decrease the wait time for patients in need of a transplant.

By Stephen Feller
Researchers find bioreactor supports whole lung regeneration
Growing whole organs for patients in need of a transplant, lungs or otherwise, could shrink waiting lists and prevent the need for immunosuppressive drugs, researchers say. Photo by Yevhen Vitte/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- It may be possible to grow new lungs for patients in need of a transplant using their own cells as a starter kit, according to researchers at Yale University.

The researchers devised a mechanical system that mimics the body to allow whole lungs to grow at scale, described in a proof-of-concept study published in the journal BioResearch Open Access.

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Researchers have been working for several years at methods of growing whole organs by removing all cells from an organ scaffold -- which gives individual organs their shape as cells grow -- and seeding it with cells from an animal in need.

In addition to finding ways to develop scaffolds, researchers in recent years have grown mini-brains and organs for research, produced functioning breast tissue, grown kidneys that worked in animals and may have methods for one day 3D-printing organs for patients.

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"Decellularized organs are now established as promising scaffolds for whole-organ regeneration," researchers wrote in the study. "For this work to reach therapeutic practice, techniques and apparatus are necessary for doing human-scale clinically applicable organ cultures."

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The bioreactor has an artificial diaphragm that mimics the blood flow and oxygenation activities in the chest, ventilating the growing organ similar to a patient's body. This allows cells to grow on a scaffold and operate as they would inside the body, the researchers said.

The researchers add that organs grown from a patient's own cells may also prevent the need for life-long immunosuppressive drugs to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.

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"The new bioreactor design described in this article will be of interest to those in the translational organogenesis and regenerative medicine community," Dr. Jane Taylor, editor of BioResearch Open Access, said in a press release. "It begins to address the critical need to develop functional bioreactors suitable for clinical application."

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