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Stem Cells May Offer Alternative to Lung Transplants

Novel protocol could provide new lung tissue for certain patients, researchers say

FRIDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Belgian scientists who used embryonic stem cells to create lung tissue say this technique could provide an alternative to lung transplants for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

This is the first time it's been shown that embryonic stem cells can be converted into airway epithelial-like cells without the use of specific growth factors or embryoid body formation. The researchers achieved this using an "air-liquid interface" system that mimics the conditions found in an adult trachea.

"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," Lindsey Van Haute, of the department of embryology and genetics at the Free University of Brussels, said in a news release.

She and her colleagues may start with fibroblast growth factors, which play an important role in lung development.

Human embryonic stem cells "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," Van Haute said.

The study was published Nov. 5 in the journal Respiratory Research.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, Nov. 4, 2009

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