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Lungs clothed in fresh cells offer new hope for transplant patients
Date:2/1/2012

For patients suffering from severe pulmonary diseases including emphysema, lung cancer or fibrosis, transplantation of healthy lung tissue may offer the best chance for survival. The surgical procedure, however, faces two primary challenges: an acute shortage of donor lungs and rejection of transplanted tissue by the recipient's immune system.

Now Daniel Weiss at the Vermont Lung Center (Principal Investigator for this project) in collaboration with Cheryl Nickerson and her colleagues at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University are exploring a radically new approach for developing viable lung tissue suitable for transplantation. The technique is being developed under a $3.4 million grant from the NIH to Dr. Weiss, $1.2 million of which is going to Dr. Nickerson for these studies. If successful, it could ultimately provide a virtually limitless supply of donor lung tissue while avoiding the host rejection that has long plagued organ transplantation.

While some biological structures (including bladder and skin) may be grown in the laboratory, building a complex organ like a lung from scratch is outside the realm of current medical technologies. The method under study instead involves audacious new techniques of tissue engineering. An organ extracted from a cadaver is chemically stripped of cellsa process known as decellularizationleaving behind a delicate architecture of the extracellular matrix. This scaffold is then recellularizedthat is, repopulated using stem cells drawn from the intended transplant recipient.

Though they occur in all multicellular organisms, stem cells are exceptional biological entities. Different types of stem cells are being investigated in this study for the successful repopulation of the decellularized lung scaffolds. These cell types include pluripotent and multipotent stem cells. As their name implies, 'pluripotent' cells have the remarkable ability to form virtually any cell type in the bo
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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