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Scientists make first step towards growing human lungs for transplant


See also...
External Sites:
-NovaThera
-Tissue Engineering journal
(Imperial College is not responsible for the content of these external internet sites)

For immediate release
Tuesday 23 August 2005

Scientists have successfully converted human embryonic stem cells into lung cells, taking a first step towards building human lungs for transplantation.

According to research to be published in the journal Tissue Engineering, the team from Imperial College London, took human embryonic stem cells and 'directed' them to convert into the type of cells needed for gas exchange in the lung, known as mature small airway epithelium.

Lung cells derived from stem cells

Dame Julia Polak Opens in new window, from Imperial College London, who led the research team, says: "This is a very exciting development, and could be a huge step towards being able to build human lungs for transplantation or to repair lungs severely damaged by incurable diseases such as cancer."

The research involved taking human embryonic stem cells and growing them in Petri dishes in the laboratory in a specialized system that encouraged them to change into the cells that line the part of the lung where oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide excreted. Although this was done in the first instance on embryonic stem cells, the system will be tested further on stem cells from other sources, including umbilical cord blood and bone marrow.

Dr Anne Bishop Opens in new window, from Imperial College London and based at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and senior author of the paper, adds: "Although it will be some years before we are able to build actual human lungs for transplantation, this is a major step towards deriving cells that could be used to repair damaged lungs."

Following further laboratory tests, the researchers plan to use their findings to treat problems such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a condition which causes the lining of the cells to fall off, and which currently kills many intensive care patients. By injecting stem cells that will become lung cells, they hope to be able to repopulate the lung lining.

The team will commercialize their findings through the Imperial College spin out company NovaThera.

The work was supported by the Medical Research Council.

For further information please contact:

Tony Stephenson
Press Officer
Communications Division
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6712
Mobile: +44 (0)7753 739766
E-mail: at.stephenson@imperial.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

1. Derivation of distal airway epithelium from human embryonic stem cells, Tissue Engineering.

2. Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Website: www.imperial.ac.uk

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