Inside the Effort To Print Lungs and Breathe Life Into Them With Stem Cells

June 28, 2018 at 07:44AM
via Slashdot

United Therapeutics, a startup that sells drugs to treat lung ailments, plans to use a 3-D printer to manufacture human lungs in "unlimited quantities." Bioprinting isn't a new idea. 3-D printers can make human skin, even retinas. Yet the method has been limited to tissues that are very small or very thin and lack blood vessels. From a report: United instead is developing a printer that it believes will be able, within a few years, to manufacture a solid, rubbery outline of a lung in exquisite detail, including all 23 descending branches of the airway, the gas-exchanging alveoli, and a delicate network of capillaries. A lung made from collagen won't help anyone: it's to a real lung what a rubber chicken is to an actual hen. So United is also developing ways to impregnate the matrix with human cells so they'll attach and burrow into it, bringing it alive. [...] United has already made some risky organ bets. One of its subsidiaries, Revivicor, supplies surgeons with hearts, kidneys, and lungs from genetically engineered pigs (these have been used in baboons, so far). Another, Lung Bioengineering, refurbishes lungs from human donors by pumping warm solution into them. About 250 people have already received lungs that would otherwise have been designated medical waste. Don't expect fully manufactured organs soon. United, in its company projections, predicts it won't happen for another 12 years. United CEO Martine Rothblatt acknowledges that the printed structure I saw is just a start. "It's only two branches and no cells," she says.



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