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An artificial lung manages to "breathe" in rats
Researchers from the US have created a primitive artificial lung with which rats could breathe for several hours. According to them, this could be a step in the development of new organs from a patient's own cells.
The finding, published in the journal Nature Medicine, is the second in a month by researchers looking for ways to regenerate cells in normal lungs.
In the latest study, Harald Ott and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston removed cells from rat lungs to leave a scaffold or matrix.
They mixed them in a bioreactor, along with various types of human lung cells, generating pressures that simulate the pressure inside the body to make the lung function and be flexible.
As Ott's team reported, the cells settled and grew into different types of tissues present in a lung.
Once transplanted into rats, they worked for around six hours, albeit imperfectly.
The researchers said the experiment could be done with more immature stem cells, the master cells of the body. This could include embryonic stem cells, capable of maturing into any type of cell in the body, or induced pluripotent stem cells (common cells with genes added to make them behave like flexible stem cells).
The potential market is wide; dozens of companies are already entering the field of regenerative medicine, as are academic laboratories such as those at Harvard.
Last month, a team from Yale University in Connecticut implanted engineered lung tissue in rats, helping the animals breathe for two hours.