Three-dimensional laboratory lung provides new insights into lung disease

Making damaged lungs healthy again: it is the big dream of over 250 million people worldwide suffering from the fatal lung disease COPD. Renowned scientists in the LONGFONDS | Breath consortium collaborate to develop a three-dimensional lung grown in the lab. The good news is that they succeed in continuously adding important missing pieces to the puzzle that will eventually lead to a solution for COPD. 

One of these top researchers is surgeon Paolo De Coppi, who works from London on stem cell transplantation. His goal is to grow healthy new tissue from a person's own cells. This tissue can then be transplanted, like a patch placed over a damaged piece of an organ. Tissue made from someone's own cells has two advantages: it makes us less dependent on organ donations and it reduces the risk of rejection because the immune system recognizes the person's own cells. 

Three-dimensional laboratory lung 

Paolo De Coppi's team is making significant strides in studying the lungs. They have successfully created a three-dimensional ‘laboratory lung’. 

In this process, the researchers used the lung structure of a rat as a scaffold. They applied human stem cells to this scaffold, allowing the scientists to cultivate a laboratory lung that offered the opportunity to conduct unique research. To investigate how the laboratory lung responds to infections, researchers exposed it to viruses. They then applied white blood cells to observe the reactions. They also tested how the laboratory lung responded to remdesivir, a drug that works against many viruses. And with success: just like in a real lung, the drug also worked in the laboratory lung. 

The cultivated laboratory lung functions like a real lung. This makes it a powerful tool for further research into the functioning and treatment of respiratory diseases, including lung infections. 

Viruses and bacteria can trigger a lung attack in COPD patients, worsening their symptoms rapidly and causing additional damage to the lungs. The more insight into the course and treatment of a lung infection, the better the damage can be limited. 

More about this revolutionary research can be found on the ScienceDirect website: Lung viral infection modelling in a bioengineered whole-organ - ScienceDirect. 

The mini-lung: current status 

Prof. Dr. Paolo De Coppi is one of the lead researchers in the BREATH team working on the mini-lung. This research is part of the international research program ACCELERATE initiated by Longfonds. 

The research team has already achieved significant results. They have successfully created a mini-trachea and mini-bronchi. The team is still working on the lung alveoli. Why is it so complicated to create these? You can read about it in the latest update: The mini-lung: new results | Longfonds Accelerate.