Bioengineers Are Closer Than Ever To Lab-Grown Lungs

By Robbie Gonzalez

The lungs in Joan Nichols’ lab have been keeping her up at night. Like children, they’re delicate, developing, and in constant need of attention, which is why she and her team at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Lung Lab have spent the last several years taking turns driving to the lab at 1:00 am to check that the bioreactors housing their experimental organs are not leaking, that the nutrient-rich soup supporting the lungs is still flowing, or that the budding sacs of tissues and veins have not succumbed to contamination. That last risk was a persistent source of anxiety: Building a lung requires suspending the thing for weeks on end in warm, wet, fungus friendly conditions—to say nothing of the subtropical climate of Galveston itself. “In this city, mold will grow on people if they sit still long enough,” Nichols says.

But their vigilance has paid off. In 2014, Nichols’ team became the first to bioengineer a human lung. A year later, the researchers implanted a single lab-built lung into a pig—another first. They’ve grown three more pig lungs since, using cells from their intended recipients, and transplanted each of them successfully without the use of immunosuppressive drugs. Taken together, the four porcine procedures, which the researchers describe in this week’s issue of Science Translational Medicine, are a major step toward growing human organs that are built to-order, using a transplant recipient’s own cells.

Bioengineering a lung is a bit like modeling with clay: Like a sculptor uses a wire armature to lend his creation form, Nichols’ team grew the tissues and blood vessels of their lab-grown lungs atop a framework of tough, flexible proteins. The researchers got that scaffolding secondhand, harvesting whole organs from dead pigs and bathing them in a concoction of sugar and detergent to strip them of the cells and blood of their previous owners like a coat of varnish from an old table.

Nichols calls the milky mass that remains the organ’s skeleton: It’s made mostly of collagen, which lends the lung strength, and elastin, which makes it flexible. Each scaffold goes into a bioreactor—one of the containers Nichols and her team built from scratch to house each of the proteinous blobs. The earliest models were little more than spruced-up fish tanks; the latest iterations still incorporate parts purchased from Home Depot.

Its humble origins notwithstanding, each bioreactor plays a vital role. “It lets you provide the organ with growth factors, media, mechanical stimulation,” says pediatric anesthesiologist Joaquin Cortiella, who co-leads the Lung Lab with Nichols. Its job is similar to that of a placenta, allowing the lung to develop in a warm, cozy, nutrient-rich environment for 30 days before it moves to the thoracic cavity of a living, breathing pig, nestled neatly beside the animal’s original lung.

Growing a lung in a bioreactor for a month is a significant accomplishment, says bioengineer Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, director of the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering at Columbia University, who was unaffiliated with the study. In an email to WIRED, she said that previous lab-grown lungs have spent a lot less time in culture before being transplanted. The extra time allowed Nichols’ and Cortiella’s bioengineered lungs to grow more blood vessels, the underdevelopment of which “is a major current limitation of lung survival,” said Vunjak-Novakovic. In past studies involving smaller animals, transplant recipients have died within a matter of hours due to fluid accumulation in the lungs. By contrast, the vasculature in Nichols’ and Cortiella’s organs allowed the pigs who received them to survive as long as two months post-transplant without any observable complications.

It’s unclear how the pigs would have fared beyond two months. The four animals in this study were euthanized 10 hours, two weeks, one month, and two months post-surgery, so the researchers could examine how each bioengineered lung had developed inside its recipient following transplantation. All signs pointed to the lungs integrating seamlessly—they continued to develop blood vessels and lung tissues and were colonized by the microbes specific to each animal’s native lung microbiome, all without respiratory symptoms or rejection by the recipient’s immune system.

A big lingering question is how well the bioengineered lungs deliver oxygen. Though each of the pigs had normal amounts of the stuff pumping through their bodies, that could have been the work of the animal’s original lung. The researchers worried the implanted organs were too underdeveloped to risk stopping each research animal from breathing on its original lung, to test the lab-grown one in isolation. That’ll have to wait for future experiments, which Cortiella and Nichols say will involve pigs living for a year or more on their transplanted organs.

Such studies will also require more animals. “It will be interesting to see how robust this technology is, as the number of animals was very low,” said Vunjak-Novakovic. Still, the results are promising. With sufficient funding, Nichols and Cortiella think they could be transplanting bioengineered lungs into humans within the decade.

But first come more experiments—and better, more reliable research facilities. High on Nichols’ wish list is a clean room for the bioreactors, accessible only to researchers clad head-to-toe in bunny suits. She’d like more automated equipment too, which would translate to less manual labor and fewer opportunities for error. And of course, she’s looking forward to the day when she and her colleagues can monitor their lungs remotely via a livestream. Babysitting bioengineered lungs may always be a 24-hour job, but at least with a video monitor the members of the Lung Lab could work remotely.

The Hospital Comfort Kit Is Now Available!

The Hospital Comfort Kit Is Now Available!

When Rebecca Poole was admitted to the hospital in December 2014, she had no idea that she would not be discharged for 219 days. Her husband Ray focused daily on what he could do to make her more comfortable. Friends and family would ask what they could do to help and at the time he didn’t have an Continue reading The Hospital Comfort Kit Is Now Available!

Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion for Transplant

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 186:
In the latest edition of The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, Dr. Frank D’Ovidio – the Surgical Director of the Lung Transplant Project and Director of the Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Program at CUMC – explains exactly what the Ex Vivo program is and what its end goals are.
Because so many donor lungs are damaged at the time of death, only 20-30% of donated lungs are usable for transplantation. The ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) is a process of evaluating and preparing donor lungs outside the body prior to transplant surgery. In EVLP, the lungs are warmed to normal body temperature, flushed of donor blood, inflammatory cells and potentially harmful biologic factors, and treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents.
Eventually, as this process is perfected, it could expand the available donor pool by restoring and repairing donor lungs that have sustained damage and eventually create a sort of ‘ICU for organs.’

This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medial Center and the Lung Transplant Project.

You have a new set of lungs! What should you expect next?

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 183:
The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis
By Jerry Cahill
In the latest edition of The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, Dr. Arcasoy from Columbia University Medical Center is back to explain what happens after a patient has a double lung transplant. He discusses pain management and the post-transplant care team in detail.
Here’s what to expect immediately pre and post-surgery:
  • Post-surgical care including pain management
  • Medical care that includes antibiotics, antirejection medication, and anti-infection medication
  • Psycho-social recovery assistance
Dr. Arcasoy also explains who your post-transplant care team is and what they do… it’s a lot, so here’s a cheat sheet:
WHO: Medical Transplant Pulmonologist and the Coordinator
WHAT:
Patients will meet with their Post-transplant team once a week for three months, then every 3-4 weeks for a year. At every meeting, the following occurs:
  • Chest x-ray
  • Lab work
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Physical exam
  • Conversation to review medications and overall health & wellness
  • Follow up lab review and medication changes
The schedule for bronchoscopies vary depending on the center, and additional testing can be added at any time deemed necessary.
Remember – every patient’s experience is completely unique! Do not get discouraged; and work with your care team to prepare both mentally and physically for the bumps along the way.

This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medical Center and the Lung Transplant Project.

You got the call for transplant… Now what happens?

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 182:
The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis
In Jerry Cahill’s latest edition of The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, Dr. D’Ovidio and Dr. Arcasoy from Columbia University Medical Center explain what happens once a patient receives the official phone call for his or her transplant.
They explain dry runs, the transplant surgery, a patient’s first breath, and more! Keep in mind; the overall transplant experience varies greatly among patients, as each case is completely unique.
This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medical Center and the Lung Transplant Project.

SIX Ways to PAY IT FORWARD to CF ROUNDTABLE!

By Jeanie Hanley, President

Greetings CF Roundtable Subscriber!

May is CF Awareness month. What better way to “Pay It Forward” than by supporting CF Roundtable which has been vital to the CF community! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.

This is YOUR CF Roundtable and because of your generosity, YOU have made it possible for nearly 30 years. 100% of your donation goes into the newsletter and many outreach programs. All work is done by volunteers with CF like Andrea, our Executive Editor, whose inspirational words regarding her 18 years of transplant are below:

Eighteen Years of Life Post-Transplant

By Andrea Eisenman, Executive Editor of CF Roundtable

Reflecting back on my life for the last 18 years post-transplant, I am amazed I have lived so long. Way longer than I expected, considering the 50 percent median survival of 5 years after a bilateral lung transplant. I am grateful for this time in which I was able to get married, go back to school for various interests like film and cooking, and care for my mom in her later years, share my life with people I care about and never in recent memory felt this good.

While I have enjoyed a good quality of life, it came with a price of total compliance almost to the point of being neurotic at times (my doctors probably get sick of my calls and emails), a daily exercise regimen and lots of rest. But I found that if I did things I enjoyed like tennis, pickle ball or swimming, it helped get the exercise for that day done while it was fun and social.

I have been extremely fortunate as not only do I have this longevity with transplant and I feel pretty well. Aside from the last 12 months, I have had the ability to travel and do most things my peers do. While I had some setbacks recently, I am starting to feel better. I keep a positive outlook and do what is needed. I can see how precious this gift of life is and I hope that when my time comes to be a donor, the person who gets my organs enjoys them as much as I enjoyed these lungs.

DONATE LIFE!

Please consider Paying It Forward in these six ways:

 

  • Unrestricted Gifts – your contribution will go to the program that needs it most.
  • Milestone Celebration: for a transplant anniversary, birth of a child, wedding, or a birthday. There is no greater reward than celebrating YOU and YOUR accomplishments.
  • Tribute Gifts – donate in honor or in memory of someone.  
  • USACFA Endowment Fund – consider contributing which will get CF Roundtable closer to be self-sustaining forever! Please contact us if you are able to contribute.
  • Matching Gifts – if your employer has this program, then let us know!
  • Bequest – A simple and easy way to remember CF Roundtable in your estate planning.  To establish a bequest, please contact us.

 

To make a donation, click here DONATE NOW!

Or MAIL a check USACFA

(made out to USACFA) to:

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Contact us at cfroundtable@usacfa.org for any further assistance.

USACFA proudly publishes CF Roundtable and all its associated programs; USACFA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you!

I’m on the transplant list, now what?

In Jerry Cahill’s latest edition of The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, Dr. Selim Arcasoy from Columbia University Medical Center discusses what happens once a patient is on the transplant list.
The first three major steps are:
  1. Create a strict exercise program with the hospital rehab center and integrate it into the patient’s schedule.
  2. Meet with a nutritionist in order to maintain proper weight.
  3. Educate! Meet with the care team in order to understand the entire process – both pre and post transplant.
The transplant process is a long one – and thoroughly detailed – in order to increase the chances of success. Tune in to learn more from Dr. Arcasoy.

This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medial Center and the Lung Transplant Project.

A Letter To My Donor

Jerry Unplugged: A blog by Jerry Cahill

Six years ago, on April 18, 2012 I received the ultimate gift – a healthy set of lungs.  

This is my transplant story and finally, an open letter to my donor Chris who gave me a second chance at life. 

On April 17th I was called to Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York City. They had a perfect set of lungs on paper for me and simultaneously while I was on my way in, a team went to harvest and evaluate these lungs, which were located out of state.  It’s a bit of coordination for the doctors to determine the health of the lungs. Were they damaged? Were there contusions or other imperfections? Were these lungs meant for me? The team at CUMC would make the final decision on whether they were a match or not. It was the sixth time that I’d been called in for the transplant, so I wasn’t getting too excited, but I also didn’t let myself get too down. This time the news was good – the transplant was a go! Before I could blink, my team began to prep me. My worn out, diseased lungs were about to be replaced with clear, healthy lungs. My life was about to be forever changed.  

Before I went into surgery, my lung function was at a dismal 19% and I spent eighteen hours a day pumping myself with medications and intravenous antibiotics to stay alive.  This wasn’t me. I was a coach, an athlete and an advocate for living a healthy life with cystic fibrosis. This wasn’t healthy! My quality of life was non-existent, and quite frankly, I was embarrassed each time I struggled to walk up a flight of stairs.  

As I was wheeled into the operating room, I remember saying to my family, “Go into the waiting room and wait. I’ll see you later.” What was I thinking?   

When I woke up I truly was a changed man.  It was a foreign feeling  for me to have clear lungs and when I took my first breaths I told my surgeon, “these lungs are too big – I think you stuffed them in.” This wasn’t a joke, I was being serious.  I was grateful and knew this wouldn’t just be a second chance at life for me, but for my donor Chris.  We were in this together now. 

The last six years have been quite a journey – and that’s very much how I view life – as a journey.  I’ve written letters to my donor’s family each year, but they haven’t responded yet. I wholeheartedly respect their decision, but I felt strongly compelled to write an open letter to this amazing man Chris, who saved my life. 

Dear Chris……

To read Jerry’s letter to Chris, please click here

NuvoAir Launches Air Next spirometer– and it uses Bluetooth!

by- Market Insiders, PR Newswire

“The Air Next uses Bluetooth Low Energy, which is a more efficient and cost-effective form of wireless technology, to instantly forward this data from the spirometer to a smartphone or tablet.”

If you’re like me and you very much dislike the extra ten seconds it takes out of your day to write down and journal your spirometry numbers, keep reading. And too, if you’re like me and you forget to bring that journal sheet with you to your doctor to show him your numbers, fear not- you don’t even have to leave your house. Just share it through the cloud. Yes, I know… another cloud.

For those of us who have received a transplant– I believe you know this well. After your surgery you are to use spirometry everyday. Everyday. For a few reasons we are told. To check for rejection, if you’re spirometry numbers are declining. To see, for both personal and medical purposes where you live (what your baseline FEV1 is). Then if you want to brag and show someone. Me: “Look mom, I am taking care of myself. Today I went up 3%.”
It’s very important. My doctors use my home numbers as if I’m doing my PFT’s at their office.
And lastly, this new Air Next looks cool! It’s not like the one hospitals give you that looks like you’re blowing into a 1950’s portal, that’s designed like the inside of a pinball machine. Seriously, check this thing out!

To keep reading visit the article below; also make sure to check out the images:
http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/nuvoair-launches-air-next-revolutionary-new-home-device-to-help-those-with-serious-lung-conditions-1001941321

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 180: The Pre-Transplant Process

In Jerry Cahill’s latest podcast series, The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, we hear from Dr. Selim Arcasoy from Columbia University Medical Center. He discusses the pre-transplant process by covering the following topics:
  • When should a CF patient consider a lung transplant?
    • When lung function decreases to 30% or below
    • When there is an increased infection resistance
    • When exacerbations resulting in ICU hospital stays become frequent
    • When a patient experiences frequent lung bleeds and collapse
  • What is the transplant listing process?
  • What is the transplant evaluation process?
  • What are some testing and evaluation obstacles, both mental and psychosocial?
  • What is dual listing?
  • What happens when you are actively listed?

This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medial Center and the Lung Transplant Project.