Scientists have successfully converted human embryonic stem cells intolung cells, taking a first step towards building human lungs fortransplantation.
According to research to be published in the journal TissueEngineering, the team from Imperial College London, took humanembryonic stem cells and 'directed' them to convert into the type ofcells needed for gas exchange in the lung, known as mature small airwayepithelium.
Dame Professor Julia Polak, from Imperial College London, wholed the research team, says: "This is a very exciting development, andcould be a huge step towards being able to build human lungs fortransplantation or to repair lungs severely damaged by incurablediseases such as cancer."
The research involved taking human embryonic stem cells andgrowing them in Petri dishes in the laboratory in a specialized systemthat encouraged them to change into the cells that line the part of thelung where oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide excreted. Althoughthis was done in the first instance on embryonic stem cells, the systemwill be tested further on stem cells from other sources, includingumbilical cord blood and bone marrow.
Dr Anne Bishop, from Imperial College London and based atChelsea and Westminster Hospital, and senior author of the paper, adds:"Although it will be some years before we are able to build actualhuman lungs for transplantation, this is a major step towards derivingcells that could be used to repair damaged lungs."
Following further laboratory tests, the researchers plan to usetheir findings to treat problems such as acute respiratory distresssyndrome (ARDS), a condition which causes the lining of the cells tofall off, and which currently kills many intensive care patients. Byinjecting stem cells that will become lung cells, they hope to be ableto repopulate the lung lining.
The team will commercialize their findings through the Imperial College spin out company NovaThera.
The work was supported by the Medical Research Council.
Cite This Page: