A daunting challenge that faces tissue engineering is the requirement to generate perfused microvasculature networks capable of delivering nutrients to and removing waste from tissues. This engineered circulatory system is critical to supporting tissue survival. Vascularization is particularly important for the production of bioengineered lungs, which requires coordination of the circulatory and respiratory systems to ensure proper gas exchange.
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch recently published their approach to addressing the challenges associated with vascular perfusion, recellularization, and engraftment of tissue-engineered lungs in a porcine model. Pig lungs were decellularized to form the initial scaffold. For 30 days, the scaffold was cultured in a bioreactor with autologous cells and supplemented with growth factor-loaded microparticles that were delivered via hydrogels. This effectively facilitated cell adhesion and vessel development with engineered lungs becoming well vascularized as early as 2 weeks after transplantation. The transplanted lungs became aerated in all four tested animals with no indication of transplant rejection.
The demand for lung transplants is immense, and the supply cannot meet current needs, as is the situation with many cases of organ donation. This work brings engineered lungs and complex tissues closer to the realm of clinical possibility.
The article titled “Production and transplantation of bioengineered lung into a large-animal model” was published in Science Translational Medicine.