Artificial lungs in humans? It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but this actually represents the speculations made about the future at the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University in Texas, USA.
Researchers at the university have developed a gel that they believe can serve as a substitute for human tissue. They imagine that the gel can be used to make artificial lungs, which will help the people who are waiting in vain for a lung transplant or who have poorly functioning lungs due to excessive smoking.
The waiting lists for organ donations are very long, and there are unfortunately several cases where patients wait for organs so long that it ultimately becomes too late for them.
Mouse survives with artificial liver
In a video on YouTube, the researchers behind the project show how it works. They take the newly developed hydrogel and insert a bag that works in the same way a lung does into it. Blood is then pumped into the aggregatewithout oxygen, and once the blood leaves the gel, it has been oxygenated exactly in the same way as it does in the human body.
The research has not been tested on larger animals yet, but the researchers have successfully made a liver of artificial tissue and implanted it in a mouse. The body of the mouse accepted the liver and it was also functional. The artificial tissue consists of a hydrogel that is a composition of artificial gel and living cells.
The combination of seeing that the gel can replace a lung, which admittedly is just the size of a ten pence coin in the experiment, while also having succeeded in implanting a liver into a mouse, makes the researchers optimistic when regarding the transfer of the research onto humans.
The researchers behind the experiment say in the video that the 3D-printing technique makes it possible to create different organs in a matter of minutes.
However, before it comes to that, the treatment must be tested on more animals before it can be tested on humans. It is never certain whether humans will react in the same way as mice do when the clinical trials proceed onto humans.