Functioning Lung Cells Created from Stem Cells

Researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center have become the first to transform stem cells into functioning lung and airway cells

Researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center have become the first to transform human induced pluripotent (HiPS) stem cells into functioning lung and airway cells.

This breakthrough holds the potential to improve the success rate of lung transplants, which is particularly important given that lung transplants have one of the lowest with around just 55% of transplants being considered a success after 5 years. Through cultivating and growing lung tissue generated from the patients own skin cells, it is hoped that the steady decline in lung function of transplant patients can be eliminated.

"In the longer term, we hope to use this [stem cell] technology to make an autologous lung graft… This would entail taking a lung from a donor; removing all the lung cells, leaving only the lung scaffold; and seeding the scaffold with new lung cells derived from the patient. In this way, rejection problems could be avoided."
Dr. Hans-Willem Snoeck

But such clinical applications are still many years away, according to Dr. Snoeck.

In the mean time, this success holds a great deal of importance for the modeling of lung diseases, the studying of lung development, and the screening of drugs.

The team of researchers, lead by chief researcher, and proffessor of medicine, Dr. Hans-William Snoeck, have succeeding in transforming iPS cells into epithelial cells capable of expressing makers of six types of epithelial cells. Of particular note is their ability to produce Type 2 alveolar epithelial cells, which play a critical role in the maintenance of lung alveoli and related diseases. Diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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