Researchers have developed a method of coaxing stem cells into 3-D mini lungs. The scientists defined the system for generating the human lung organoids, 3D structures that mimic the structure and complexity of human lungs.
These lungs would help scientists and researchers more efficiently and cost-effectively test out new treatment methods and drugs. Scientists have mostly used 2-D lung cells to test out new drugs to see their possible benefits and side effects. However, these 2-D cell models are usually so far from a real lung, that their results are not useful for much more than a preliminary analysis. With the new 3-D organoid, scientists would be able to gain much more data, using the mini-lung as a compliment to animal research.
To make these 3-D lungs, scientists manipulated several of the signaling pathways that control the formation of organs. First, stem cells – cells that can grow into other types of cells - were instructed to form a type of tissue called endoderm, which is found in early embryos and gives rise to the lung, liver and several other internal organs. After manipulating a few key developmental pathways, the researchers added additional proteins known to be present during lung formation. The resulting 3-D organoid survived in a lab for over 100 days.
The research was done by a collaboration of researchers at the U-M's Spence Lab and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco; Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; Seattle Children's Hospital and University of Washington, Seattle.