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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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  • Great thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @02:48AM (#32941284)
    once they perfect it and get it approved for humans. There is a big shortage of viable organ replacements, and something like this could work wonders, especially if it also gets around the tissue typing issues. But what do I know, I'm not in the medical field.
  • Great Progress (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FalleStar ( 847778 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:09AM (#32941312) Homepage
    It sounds like this is coming along nicely, this is some truly amazing work that's being done. Unfortunately I think the team is being incredibly optimistic thinking that this treatment might be being used on humans in 5 years. I have no ties to the medical field, but it seems that whenever I hear about an excellent but experimental procedure it ends up staying in the testing phase for a very long time, if not forever, before it's approved for regular use. Hopefully I am wrong.
  • Free papers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jprupp ( 697660 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:33AM (#32941370)

    I thought scientists are a bunch of people usually very willing to share their knowledge for the wellbeing of mankind. I tended to think they were like open source people. But I've found that scientific papers on the Internet aren't normally available for free. That's sad.

  • Re:Great thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:40AM (#32941386) Journal
    It's not just the tissue typing - which does have issues - but also the rejection thing. The anti-rejection drugs cause a lot of issues since by design they weaken the immune system.
  • by pspahn ( 1175617 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:44AM (#32941392)
    ...and yet, without animal testing, you wouldn't have learned any of that.
  • Re:Free papers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @04:17AM (#32941462) Journal
    You've just met the publishers. Their friends say that they do a dirty but necessary job, like hangmen. Their opponents are less kind.

    The actual scientists will usually have a copy floating around their website somewhere(for copyright reasons it will, of course, be a "preprint draft" not the "real thing" because the publishers generally own that; but the text is usually identical).

    That's after they've fulfilled the "publish" side of "publish or perish", of course, the helpfulness or outright paranoia of scientists who have data they haven't gotten a paper out of yet varies widely...
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @04:58AM (#32941530)
    i'm against cruel animal testing - that rat didn't feel a thing so it's ok.

    however, when our rat overlords from outerspace arrive and start doing animal testing on US, we better just STFU and take it as a "necessary evil"

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

    by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @05:38AM (#32941604) Homepage

    Agreed, all we need to find is a medium that can be used in the same manner as those 3D printers. Print out the medium in an organ shape, and populate it with the donor cells - grow new organ.

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

    by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @05:47AM (#32941620)

    You have it backwards. He's saying that we need more people getting killed in motorcycle accidents, to ensure a supply of donor organs, until this new option is feasible.

    I guess you've never heard of motorcycle riders referred to as "two wheeled organ donors".

  • by SlashBugs ( 1339813 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:17AM (#32941826)

    Animal testing has never really worked. Animal tests proved penicillin deadly, strychnine safe and aspirin dangerous.

    In fact, 90 percent of medications approved for human use after animal testing later proved ineffective or harmful to humans in clinical trials. It is humbling to realize that the flipping of a coin would have proved five times more accurate and much cheaper.

    Animal testing has never worked perfectly. I can't find citations for your claims about those three drugs, (although I happen to know that the first use of penicillin was in mice injected with staphylococcus - it saved the mice and led to a very rapid research programme that culminated in large-scale production and saving many thousands of soldiers' lives in WWII, and ultimately in all the antibiotics we rely on today) but I'll cheerfully concede that drug tests in animals can give misleading results. A lot of this is arguably because the results are misinterpreted, but there's no denying that our biology differs in various ways. Some of those differences are well-understood, others occasionally take us by surprise.

    Your other point is an obvious statistical fallacy. It may be true that 90% of trials fail post animal testing. What's important to know is how many unnecessary trials of useless dugs have been prevented. Without animal testing, instead of 90% of human trials failing the number would be more like 99.999% failure. Even ignoring the astronomical costs of these trials (in terms of both money spent and extra lives lost while waiting for a cure), while some of these failures would be benign others would visit terrible side-effects on the volunteers.

    Animal-tested drugs have killed, disabled or harmed millions of people and lead to costly delays as well.

    Probably true. However, animal-tested drugs have also saved many, many more. Gigantic net benefit. As a side note, the eradication of smallpox directly killed thousands of people, through reaction to the vaccine (the earlier versions were less safe than the modern versions). But we still say it was a good thing, because it has saved many millions more. Like it or not, public health is a numbers game, where all we can do is shoot for the best net benefit.

    We have spent billions of dollars to cure cancer in mice, but so far have failed to replicate human cancer in any animal, let alone close in on a cure. All but a very few diseases are species-unique, and the only efficient and effective way to discover cures and create vaccines is through the use of the same species cells, tissues and organs.

    Cancer is, at best, a family of diseases, not a single disease. There is not and will never be a single "cure for cancer". There are, however, excellent treatments for certain kinds of cancer, many of which (chemodrugs and oncolyic viruses) could not exist without extensive work in animal models. Animal models teach us a huge amount about cancer development and progression, the tumour micro-environment, interactions with the immune system, the kinetics and diffusion properties of drugs, etc. You can join the argument that the data we get isn't perfect, but everyone involved already knows this. The counter-argument it that we have a choice between this and nothing at all. "Efficient" and "effecive" might be true if we had an unlimited supply of human tissues, organs and whole people to experiment with. Sadly, the ethics board in my university are all up-tight and like to see that *something* living can tolerate and show benefit from the treatment before we start injecting random chemicals into cancer patients. Killjoys, I know.

    The use of animals as models for the development of human medications and disease almost always fails, simply because humans and animals have different physiologies.

    Different in some ways, very, very similar in others. The trick is to work out which ones are which, and the people running multi-$million research

  • by Krahar ( 1655029 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:30AM (#32941860)

    In fact, 90 percent of medications approved for human use after animal testing later proved ineffective or harmful to humans in clinical trials. It is humbling to realize that the flipping of a coin would have proved five times more accurate and much cheaper.

    I doubt the claim unless "harm" also refers to relatively harmless side effects in comparison to what the medicine is helping with, but let's suppose it's true. It still doesn't follow animal testing didn't help. It may be that most medications of any kind, animal tested or not, do have some side-effects and that number may have been larger than 90% without animal testing. Animal testing may also have uncovered some of the more severe side-effects, so with animal testing something like at the level of a runny nose may often be undetected or just plain accepted while without animal testing the test persons may drop dead more often.

    Comparing animal testing to a coin based on a 90% figure doesn't work because then we have to assume that half of all medicines that are proposed are harmless and half are not. I see no reason to think that the base rates are like that - indeed, the idea that animal testing actively selects for harmful effects at a level far above chance is preposterous.

    The actual problem with animal testing is as you point out not so much that it lets too many harmful medicines through, it's that it rules some medicines out that in fact would be beneficial to have available. That's a price we pay to have patients in early studies suffer less of a risk from the untested medicine.

    It's clear that your real motivation to oppose animal testing is out of concern for the animals, and not in fact because of any scientific deficiencies with animal testing. If you doubt that, consider that you'd still be against it even if you believed that animal testing is as effective as the rest of the world believes. Right?

  • by JoeRobe ( 207552 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:21PM (#32943594) Homepage

    90 percent of medications approved for human use after animal testing later proved ineffective or harmful to humans in clinical trials. It is humbling to realize that the flipping of a coin would have proved five times more accurate and much cheaper.

    Your logic there is way off. For every medication that has passed the lab animal testing phase, hundreds, if not thousands, have failed. Say you have 100 possible substances to treat diabetes. These 100 may be the result of a theoretical study of 10000 possible chemicals, most of which have been deemed harmful to humans on computer before ever even being created. Of the 100, maybe 3 of them will make their way through animal testing, and of those 3, one will become a viable drug. So if you had flipped a coin at the beginning of the lab testing, you would have 50 substances, of which none or at best one would be a viable drug, with the rest being either ineffective or harmful.

    All but a very few diseases are species-unique, and the only efficient and effective way to discover cures and create vaccines is through the use of the same species cells, tissues and organs."

    Many diseases are species-unique, which is why we always have to do human testing. However, mouse, monkey, and pig physiology shares many similarities with human physiology, enough that if a drug kills a mouse, we can be pretty sure it'll be harmful to humans.

    It's time to insist that they stop harming defenseless animals and wasting our precious health care dollars so they can get busy saving our lives by embracing technologies that work.

    I hear this from animal rights protesters all the time. Do you really think that the grad students and people making the drugs are just killing animals because they can? They're not heartless people who like seeing animals die - quite the contrary, they're typically really compassionate folks who realize that their research may save human lives. Keep in mind that animal testing costs money, and researchers pay for that testing using either private or public money which they have fought very hard to get. So they are not going to waste money on testing that they don't think will get them closer to a human-safe and effective drug.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:14PM (#32946776)

    Guess what? Human experiments also do not predict human outcomes.

    Now how is that? There's still enough genetic diversity amongst humans that metabolic processes differ enough such that drugs can be processed differently by different people. So if you have 10% react badly during testing, you're denying 90% of the population a drug that would actually be beneficial and useful to them. (This is much in the same manner that I can eat and enjoy peanuts or shellfish with no adverse effects whatsoever, but give them to the wrong person and they're frothing at the mouth and in serious need of antihistamine shots or anti-seizure meds.) The way to get around this problem is to require genetic mapping and indexing during drug trials. Then before signing off on future prescriptions, there's a DNA test so you can match the right drug for a given problem with a specific person such that it minimizes or eliminates any negative reactions. If they do this right and can rework the law to reflect more recent knowledge, even some old (but currently banned) drugs may make it back onto the market.

    But in the case of the article experiment, the animal analogue would actually apply to people. In fact it is more representative than how they currently do drug testing. This is because the animal had its own tissue grown externally and put back into the animal. Since it's a genetic match for itself, there's not going to be known substitution problems. They just do the trial run on animals since they don't have good enough lawyers. (nor does PETA)

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