Scientists in Texas 'Grow' Human Lungs in a Fish Tank

First Posted: Feb 15, 2014 09:29 PM EST

For those with severe lung disease, a lung transplant may be one of several options to help relieve the problem. This involves the removal of the current lungs in order to replace them with a healthier set.

The procedure is usually used as a last report for those who may die in 1 to 2 years depending on if the lungs are not replaced with conditions in which medicines and breathing devices do not better address the health issue.

And in 2010 alone, there were an estimated 1,800 lung transplants, making up just about half of the number who needed them. The number of lung donors are always much less, according to statistics. 

Fortunately, as an estimated 1,600 are currently on the waiting list this year, a new medical breakthrough brings hope to address the health issue.

"It's so darn cool," said Joan Nichols, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch, to CNN. "It's been science fiction and we're moving into science fact."

According to researchers, they used the donated lungs of two children who died in an accident. Those lungs were then severely damaged but still contained some healthy tissues. The study authors used the tissues to get just the collagen and elastin and collected cells from other lungs and put everything on liquid container.

In just four weeks, they were surprised to find a new set of healthy lungs, with a repeated experiment yielding the same results.

The team plans to test the lungs on pigs first before trying it on humans. Aside from lungs, they are also creating other parts such as liver and tracheas in the same lab.

However, Nichols and colleagues note that creating a set of functioning lungs that could actually be used may take up to 12 years.

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