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Biotech Medicine Science

Rat Lung Successfully Regenerated and Transplanted 59

Dr. Eggman writes "Nature Medicine brings us news of the latest success in the regeneration of the gas exchanging tissues [abstract is free; the full paper requires subscription or payment] of the lungs of a rat. Led by Harald C. Ott, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston used decellularization to produce a cellular scaffolding to serve as the basis of the transplant lungs. You may recall the previous achievements in use of this cellular scaffolding technique by Yale University. This latest announcement comes with the excellent news that the rat's airway and respiratory muscles performed the necessary ventilation (as a normal rat's would), and that they provided gas exchange for up to 6 hours after extubation, up from the previous 2 hours. They eventually failed due to capillary leakage resulting in the accumulation of fluids in the lungs. Although there's much work to be done, as not all the cell types found in the lung were regenerated, Ott and his team remain optimistic and estimated we might see regenerated organs for use in human patients within 5 to 10 years." PhysOrg has videos of the lungs doing their thing.
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Rat Lung Successfully Regenerated and Transplanted

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  • Re:Great thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by simula ( 1032230 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:32AM (#32941362) Homepage
    This technique still requires donor lungs. However, there are two huge advances using this technique.
    • Because the organ is decellularized and repopulated with the recipient's own tissue, the recipient does not need anti-rejection drugs.
    • Because the organ is decellularized until it is the collagen matrix of the organ, it should be much easier to store and is not in danger of dying like regular organs.

    Either one of these advances is a giant breakthrough in it's own right. Here is a link to a picture and story about the decullarization of rat hearts and their partially successful recullarization. []

  • Re:Great thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @04:29AM (#32941484) Journal
    And, unfortunately, they aren't 100% effective at staving off rejection. A family friend's immune system just started demonstrating its ingratitude, with extreme prejudice, for his new heart. The doctors are hoping that they'll be able to tweak his drugs and get it to stop before serious damage occurs; but doing so without leaving you open to nasty infections and/or exotic cancers is apparently quite tricky.
  • Re:Free papers (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @04:36AM (#32941494)

    The majority of peer-reviewd scientific journals do require a subscription. Access to these journals has a cost not necessarily because of scientists' unwillingness to share their knowledge but rather because publishers need a source of income.

    If you want to check out a particular scientist's work for free, you may want to see if that scientist has a research group website. Most scientists/professors at universities have some kind of website where they provide background for their research. You can sometimes even find some of their articles on their websites.

    Also, if you happen to be attending a university, then it is possible that your institution has a subscription to journals such as Nature Medicine. It would then be a matter of contacting your university library to figure out how to get access.

  • Re:Doubtful (Score:5, Informative)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @05:28AM (#32941576)

    It's always "in another 5 to 10 years" and then everyone forgets about it and nothing ever comes of it.

    Almost none of the exciting medical research projects you're talking about were "forgotten," what happened is they didn't pan out. Cancer drugs have worked in rats but not in humans, various treatments have had promising initial results on cells in a dish, and then in a whole animal they had unexpected side effects, refinements in efficiency and cost proved impossible, etc.

    In the cases where you hear "5 to 10 years" and then nothing, one common scenario leading to that is that one of the researchers associated with the exciting project was asked when it might be useful on patients, which the researcher probably had no real idea since it would probably be another researcher or a whole different organization entirely to take it the next step. An honest answer in those cases would be "I have no idea, I hadn't really thought about it beyond there's nothing that I could do immediately and there are other more interesting projects I'll work on next, I'm basically done with this" He or she instead just said "Oh, maybe 5 to 10 years." Whoever he or she told that to liked the sound of that and thought it would make the news item/blog post/story more interesting and stated it as a specific prediction rather than just a random vague guess. And then whoever picked it up, another lab, another researcher in the same lab, a private company, found it didn't make the transition from petri dish to lab rat or lab rat to human clinical trials.

    Also possible that the researcher was just trying to hype up his or her own research to get more funding.

    Anyway, these projects haven't just been forgotten because we researchers have short memories, and those 5-10 year predictions weren't supposed to be or shouldn't have been promises.

  • Re:Free papers (Score:5, Informative)

    by SlashBugs ( 1339813 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @06:29AM (#32941726)
    Scientists would love for all of our papers to be open-access. Even ignoring the big ideological reasons (what's the point of discovering this stuff if we can't tell everyone?), our career progression is almost entirely dependent on people's recognition of our published work. We want as many people as possible to read, build on and cite our work, because that's how we build the reputations we need to get funding, jobs and groupies.*

    The problem is that a big part of the way our publication record is assessed is whether our work was published in "high-tier" journals, i.e. the journals that print the most often cited (therefore deemed to be best quality) papers. These journals are almost all closed-access (Nature, Science, Cell, etc.). Worse, they demand that you transfer copyright over to them so you're forbidden from giving copies of your papers away.

    A few larger organisations have managed to negotiate better terms. For example, work funded by various governments (most or all of the EU states, USA, etc) or big, influential charities (e.g. Cancer Research UK) can (and must) be released for free, generally at least six months after initial publication. This sort of negotiation is possible for influential funding bodies, who could otherwise insist that labs receiving funding boycott closed journals. However, an individual scientist can only try to fight the system by submitting their work to open-access journals. This is noble but, without work published in high-tier journals, they're really destroying their chances of getting ahead in a fiercely competitive funding and job market. A lot of scientists hate the current publishing system but, really, they have us by the balls.

    *I can dream. Shut up.
  • by SlashBugs ( 1339813 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:37AM (#32941886)

    Really, really, no. I've co-authored a paper on a stochastic model of a particular biological system, so I have some insight here. Think about weather forecasting: we have a firm understanding of the underlying physics, the environment isn't terribly complex (air and moisture of various temperatures, flowing over landmasses and seas, heated by the sun) and yet we're absolutely shit at it. We simply don't have enough information or processing power to build a decent model of this relatively simple but chaotic system and see where it's going to go.

    Now scale this to a human cell. The environment inside a cell is enormously complex, containing millions of proteins, nucleic acid structures, lipids, carbohydrates, etc of many thousands of different types. For the vast majority of these, we have no idea what they do - no or incomplete guesses about their function, shape, charge distribution, stability, etc. or how any or all of this changes in response to pH, temperature, binding to one or more other proteins/carbs/lipids/etc.

    Now scale this up from a cell to a section of tissue. We don't have a clear understanding of all the signals that cells send and receive between themselves, how they sense the extra-cellular environment and what their reactions might be. We have a huge amount of solid evidence, but we know that there's a lot going on that we can't currently detect or understand. Now scale up to a whole organ, a whole biochemistry, a whole patient...

    Computer modelling is coming along, but a model of a system can only ever be as good as your understanding of that system. As the computer types, say: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Our understanding of biology is in a period of truly inspiring growth, but still woefully incomplete. The paper I worked on was a bit of a breakthrough in the techniques it used (it wasn't my breakthrough, I'm not a mathematician), but for the model itself we had to make some really ugly assumptions and omissions, and had to start with some very dubious input data.

    Fantastic advances are being made and it's a tremendously important field of research, but it's limited by the progress of "proper" biology. I'd bet patients' lives on the weather forecast before I bet them on the current state-of-the-art biological computer models.

  • Re:Great thing (Score:2, Informative)

    by BobisOnlyBob ( 1438553 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:05AM (#32942176)

    I usually hear them described as "eye donors". Helmets are great at protecting the head, especially the eyes, but the rest of the body usually ends up somewhat less usable... ew.

  • Re:Great thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:15PM (#32943130)
    I have friends that run cemeteries and funeral homes. In the Death Care industry they call them "Donorcycles".

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"