Serious lung disease has a high rate of mortality, and the only curative treatment is a lung transplant. This is a complicated procedure that has other adverse health effects and oftentimes simply doesn’t work, so for scientists in this field, organ regeneration — that is, growing an organ from the body’s own tissue — is the ultimate solution. Now, researchers from Yale say they’re on track for this very eventuality.
Using sophisticated screening processes, the team has created a cellular blueprint of the human lung, making it easier to understand the design of lung function and respiratory diseases. The technology offers an ultrahigh resolution of millions of cells at once. Professor Naftali Kaminski of the Yale School of Medicine explained that this has only been possible thanks to advances in resolution technology. “It’s like we have moved the resolution on cell analysis from looking at the night sky with the naked eye, to a child’s telescope, to an observatory and, now, the Hubble telescope,” he said.
The blueprint will provide researchers with detailed information on the way lung cells interact, and will also help in finding new molecular targets for therapies to treat lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis. According to the team, there are active bioengineering efforts taking place that aim to grow lung tissue in specially adapted glass jars. The new blueprints will help researchers determine whether or not their lab-grown tissue is on track to become an actual organ, and provide some insight into any changes that need to be made. “We’re looking at the basic principles of the development of an organ,” Kaminski said. “Applying this approach could allow us to design new organs.”