Offering a potential new tool to study respiratory diseases, researchers have transplanted lab-grown mini lungs into immunosuppressed mice where the structures were able to survive, grow and mature. “In many ways, the transplanted mini lungs were indistinguishable from human adult tissue,” said senior study author Jason Spence, Associate Professor at University of Michigan Medical School in the US.Respiratory diseases account for nearly one in five deaths worldwide, and lung cancer survival rates remain poor despite numerous therapeutic advances during the past 30 years. The numbers highlight the need for new,
physiologically relevant models for translational lung research. Lab-grown lungs can help because they provide a human model to screen drugs, understand gene function, generate transplantable tissue and study complex human diseases, such as asthma. The researchers used numerous signalling pathways involved with cell growth and organ formation to coax stem cells — the body’s master cells — to make the miniature lungs. The findings, published in the journal eLife, suggest that scientists can now grow 3-D models of lungs from stem cells, creating new ways to study respiratory diseases.