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Building Lungs in the Lab with Stem Cells

Aug 17, 2015 1:00:03 PM / by Shweta

Stem cells discovery paves the way for the treatment of pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major cause of significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 64 million people around the world have moderate to severe COPD. It is now the third leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for around 5% of global deaths every year. It has been estimated that in the next 10 years the total death rate may rise by more than 30%.

It is a slow, progressive condition, leading to severe irreversible lung damage. Cigarette smoking, air pollution, environmental changes, and various pathogens are the main factors. Currently, there is no effective treatment available to inhibit or reverse the pathology of this disease. Over the last few decades, multiple strategies have been employed to improve the outcome of COPD treatment, but they have not shown complete success yet. Lung transplantation has become the only hope for many terminally ill patients. However, there is always a critical shortage of donor lungs, and many patients die during the waiting period. Furthermore, the clinical success of lung transplantation is hampered by lifelong immunosuppression and chronic rejection, reflected in a 10–20% survival rate 10 years after transplantation. Thus, new and innovative options are in urgent need for those patients.

stem cells Researchers demonstrated that stem cells miraculously recellularize the decellularized lung scaffolds. Image Credit:

Over the past few decades, advancements in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine has brought hope for many devastating and incurable degenerative diseases. Scientists at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute have devised a new technique to bio-engineer the lungs in the lab [1]. This novel technique could potentially  address the problems related to the scarcity of donor lungs for transplant and the need of immunosuppressive drugs to avoid rejection.

Scientists attempted to improve recellularization of the lung scaffold in a mouse model using a dynamic low fluid shear suspension bioreactor, termed the rotating wall vessel (RWV). The researchers used two relevant mouse cell types: bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal (stem) cells (MSCs) and alveolar type II cells. They further noticed the differentiation of MSCs into collagen I-producing fibroblast-like cells in the bioreactor, indicating enhanced potential for remodeling of the decellularized scaffold matrix. Results suggested that the dynamic suspension culture technique holds tremendous potential to enhance the repopulation of decellularized lungs, which in turn could contribute to remodeling the extracellular matrix of the scaffolds to produce functionalized cells.

The study clearly indicates the potential application of this technique for repair and regeneration of injured lungs in the future. HemaCare is a leading global provider of different kinds of stem cells for advanced biomedical research and clinical needs in accordance with quality and regulatory compliance.


[1] Aurélie Crabbé et al., Recellularization of Decellularized Lung Scaffolds Is Enhanced by Dynamic Suspension Culture. PLoS One. 2015 May 11;10(5):e0126846. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126846.

Topics: Regenerative Medicine, Stem Cell Therapy, Stem Cells, Basic Research


Written by Shweta

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