In a breakthrough study, scientists from Free University of Brussels, Belgium have successfully created lung tissue with human embryonic stem cells.
The new discovery would provide an alternative to lung transplants patients with lung injury due to chronic pulmonary disease and inherited genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
The research team could successfully differentiate human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into major cell types of lung epithelial tissue with the help of a convenient air-liquid interface that mimics the conditions found in an adult trachea.
They found that expression data of lung-specific biomarkers from quantitative real-time RT-PCR supported the differentiation into lung epithelial cells.
In addition, the combination of these mRNA expression results, as well protein expression, secretion and localization showed the presence of the major cell types of lung epithelial tissue.
It showed that hESC can differentiate into lung epithelial-like tissue without specific growth factors or embryoid body formation.
The air-liquid interface on a porous membrane combined with low serum was enough to prime the cells to form an airway epithelial-like tissue.
"Efforts will be made to further improve this novel culture protocol, trying to increase the number of differentiated cells or to guide the differentiation into particular cell types by adding certain growth factors to this system," said lead researcher Lindsey Van Haute, Department of Embryology and Genetics at the Free University of Brussels.
"hESC have the capacity to differentiate in vivo and in vitro into cells from all three germ lineages, making them particularly important in developmental biology, regenerative medicine and in vitro pharmacological studies.
"hESC lines carrying a monogenic disease affecting the lung, such as cystic fibrosis, are available.
"This novel technique can be used on these affected hESC lines and provide researchers with putatively clinically relevant tools to develop in vitro models for these diseases," Van Haute added.
The findings appear in BioMed Central's open access journal Respiratory Research.