University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have been awarded a two-year, $1.25 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop a method of custom-growing human lung tissue to make a three-dimensional model for biomedical studies.
The lab-grown piece of lung, about the size of a dime, will form the core of a system intended to provide a powerful new option for testing new vaccines and drugs and studying disease processes in the lung.
"I'm so excited that the NIH is giving us this opportunity," said UTMB professor Joan Nichols, principal investigator on the project. "We've been working on tissue engineering for a long time, and developing this kind of model has always been one of our goals. These systems could really change the paradigm of what we do."
The NIH is also funding 16 other projects aimed at developing similar models using engineered human tissues, including those for the heart, liver, kidney, intestine and skin. Ultimately, the agency hopes to connect different tissue models together, in order to create a system that could simulate the combined responses of multiple organs.
Although animal models for disease and pharmaceutical testing have a long record of success, experimental models based on engineered human tissues would offer significant advantages to researchers, Nichols said.
"First, it's a human system, and while you can simulate human responses with animal models, it's never perfect," she said. "Second, it's easily managed, and it scales up easily, because having no animal care makes everything cheaper and easier. And if the thing you're testing is toxic, it's just cells you're not killing an animal."
According to Nichols, tissue-engineered models will also give researchers the ability to more easily conduct repeated observations in live tissue and apply advanced imaging techniques such as two-photon microscopy. They should also allow researchers to study diseases
|Contact: Jim Kelly|
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston