Scientists have created 3D techniques that can regenerate lungs from human stem cells in what is an exciting development in this field.
Daniel Weiss, a professor of medicine at the University of Vermont, has developed lung tissue bioengineering technique that involves scaffold - or framework - of lungs from human corpse to engineer new lungs for patients with end-stage lung diseases.
They examined several perspectives on the process of stripping the cellular material from these lungs - called decellularising - and replacing it with stem cells (recellularisation) in an effort to grow new, healthy lungs for transplantation.
"It's expensive and difficult to repopulate an entire human lung at one time. Unlike in mouse models, this does not readily allow the study of multiple conditions, such as cell types, growth factors and environmental influences like mechanical stretch - normal breathing motions - that will all affect successful lung recellularisation," Weiss said.
To address this, Darcy Wagner, a post-doctoral fellow working in Weiss' lab, developed a technique to dissect out and recellularise multiple, small segments in a manner that would take into consideration the appropriate three-dimensional interaction of blood vessels with the lung's airways and air sacs.
With the help of another novel technique - thermography or thermal imaging - Wagner and colleagues developed a non-invasive and non-destructive means for monitoring the lung scaffolds' integrity and physiologic attributes in real-time during the decellularisation process.
According to Wagner, this method could be used as a first step in evaluating whether lungs and eventual scaffolds are suitable for recellularisation and transplantation.
The study appeared in the journal Biomaterials.