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Creation of Lung Cells from Embryonic Stem Cells
March 1, 2007 12:25 PM   Subscribe

"Molecular scientists . . . have developed a new procedure for the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells, with which they have created the first transplantable source of lung epithelial cells."
posted by jason's_planet (30 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
BEHOLD, the wonders of the age: Scientists the size of molecules!
posted by DU at 12:33 PM on March 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fabulous!

(Lights cigarette.)
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:49 PM on March 1, 2007


Lord, let it be true. I can't wait to start smoking again.
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:02 PM on March 1, 2007


Filthy babykillers.

Actually I'm pretty surprised. I didn't know Texas had scientists.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:04 PM on March 1, 2007


Approves.
posted by LordSludge at 1:08 PM on March 1, 2007


How would it work? You inject them into someone's lungs and watch them grow? You inhale them?
posted by amberglow at 1:12 PM on March 1, 2007


How would it work?

One option that people in the field are exploring is -- I kid you not -- printing out the tissues and organs in a device derived from an inkjet printer.

Others are trying to create " . . .a biodegradable scaffold [which] serves as a temporary matrix where implanted cells divide, differentiate and grow into the specific type of tissue cell required, ultimately functioning in the same way as “normal” tissue. "
posted by jason's_planet at 1:22 PM on March 1, 2007


I don't know anything about science, but thankfully my wife is Very Smart. She says, "It's strange because you can do that with a somatic stem cell (you don't need an embryo)...so why do it with an embryonic one?"
posted by Milkman Dan at 1:22 PM on March 1, 2007


Because then you get to absorb some dead baby's soul.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:24 PM on March 1, 2007 [8 favorites]


The real question is: will the government force non-smoking taxpayers to provide the dead babies necessary to replace my dusty, charred lungs?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:36 PM on March 1, 2007


thanks, jason--but lungs are different, no? It's not like an organ. I can't even imagine that they could glue new pieces/sections/linings onto a lung and have it take.
posted by amberglow at 1:42 PM on March 1, 2007


Milkman Dan is that very smart as in "I'm a well informed sort of person and I don't get why they did it this way" or very smart as in "I have a degree in molecular biology and I don't get why they did it this way"?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:49 PM on March 1, 2007


thanks, jason--but lungs are different, no? It's not like an organ. I can't even imagine that they could glue new pieces/sections/linings onto a lung and have it take.

You're welcome. As for this question . . . well, I'm a layman -- just in case I hadn't made this obvious before -- and I have no clue as to how doctors would go about reconstructing a damaged lung, or replacing sections of it or anything of that nature. I know that we're probably not going to be seeing actual usable engineered lung tissue for at least a decade or two, at which point I would hope that the appropriate technology and surgical techniques would be available to make the best use of this.

That's probably a question a specialist could answer, if there are any out there reading this post.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:57 PM on March 1, 2007


Lentrohamsanin: Very smart as in "I have a degree in biology (although not a specialization in the molecular kind) and I don't get why they did it this way."
posted by Milkman Dan at 2:01 PM on March 1, 2007


That's probably a question a specialist could answer, if there are any out there reading this post.

Specialist here. Ship in a bottle, same concept.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 2:14 PM on March 1, 2007


Terminal Verbosity - Does that mean rounds of sedated intubation with partial collapse of the lung being worked on with esophagal shunting to paralyze the respiratory actions? Or are we talking removal of peices and replacement with new parts? Or do you just spray a layer of new cells over the old damaged ones and wait for them to stick? That's the process I'm really curious about. Do you need to halt the bronchial dilation processes as well? Or do you just work around constriction or irritaion inflamation? And does this mean you have to map out the bronchial trees and place the new cells into each individual airsac? So many questions, so many questions.

Mostly I ask because I'm hoping to sign up for the procedure tomorrow, so you kids get cracking with getting this treatment approved through the Department of Health and make sure to have all the paperwork filled out for my insurance claim by next week.
posted by daq at 2:43 PM on March 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


She says, "It's strange because you can do that with a somatic stem cell (you don't need an embryo)

Well, no, you can't. At least according to the article, which says that this is "the first transplantable source of lung epithelial cells."
posted by rxrfrx at 2:46 PM on March 1, 2007


Thanks SO much j_p for posting this!

As the parent of an infant with Cystic Fibrosis, I'm always on the lookout for encouraging news such as this.

Cheers!
posted by numlok at 2:49 PM on March 1, 2007


daq, great questions.

I had a lung collapse myself--i have blebs on both. (This stem cell thing wouldn't help me tho.) I could see the inhaling/spraying thing working really well, as long as it wouldn't hurt breathing or clog up needed airways. How could it be targeted to just damaged areas?

It was the process of the tube reinflating me (i still have the coin-sized slot between my ribs) and the stuff i learned about lungs while laying in the hospital for days that made me ask. I was told our lungs are (very very basically) the strength and consistency of wet tissues in the shape of bags (which is why we have ribs protecting them). It's not like fixing burnt skin or replacing a kidney.
posted by amberglow at 3:20 PM on March 1, 2007


I forsee a new marketing strategy for cigarette makers: "Now with new 'Lung Fix' Filters!"
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:27 PM on March 1, 2007


What amazes me with the stem cell debate is how much people are using it simply as a banner to wave for their campaign. Take Bill Richardson for instance (current Governor from New Mexico). I read a pretty appalling article on how he is basically hosing the state for $10mil just to help his campaign. While I agree with stem cell research, it seems like he is throwing away tax payer dollars on a glorified community college.
posted by gandledorf at 3:52 PM on March 1, 2007


My other curious question is how does this work towards fixing asthma? Asthmatics are bronchial constrition caused by irritation of the bronchial airways (often with increased mucus secretion, causing additional blockage). This is all about the airsacs, which reside at the end of the bronchial passages. Are they saying that the regenerative effects of new cells in the bronchial passages will reduce the inflamation of the bronchial tubes? I don't think that's how that whole mechanism works. Though I could be completely and utterly wrong on that one. It would be nice though (my understanding is that it's really a histamine response that is the root problem with asthmatics, where the immune system goes a little haywire and releases too many of the white blood cells that cause tissue swelling and inflamation in response to irritation and cause the bronchial passages to swell beyond normal "safe" response levels, thus constricting the airway and reducing the volume of oxygen and carbon dioxide that can be exchanged in the the airsacs. I know my diagnosed kind is that way [wasn't diagnosed until I was 26, which is when I started to exhibit symptoms due to alergies]). Anyway. All I know is that I want a new body ready for consciousness transferrence by the time I'm 60, because by then I'll pretty much have run this one into the ground.
posted by daq at 4:02 PM on March 1, 2007


I don't know anything about science, but thankfully my wife is Very Smart. She says, "It's strange because you can do that with a somatic stem cell (you don't need an embryo)...so why do it with an embryonic one?"

I had a similar question, but mine was, "why did they pick these cells?" So, I browsed the cell types a little.

The primary purposes of type II alveolar cells are to produce surfactant and to serve as progenitors for type I alveolar cells (type I make up most of the alveolar "air sac" surface). This is partially a guess, but type II cells may be less differentiated (and therefore closer to stem cells) than many other vital organ tissues. That might be why the article called them "'the stem cells of the lungs'" (not sure what that means, exactly). A lower differentiation level could make the cells better candidates for exploratory research. And finding a simple model can be beneficial if you want to extrapolate to other cell types.

daq, surfactant levels seem to play a secondary role in asthma.
posted by zennie at 5:09 PM on March 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


...b-b-b-but life is only sacred until 9 months after conception!
posted by tehloki at 6:19 PM on March 1, 2007


As someone mentioned above (it's also mentioned in the article) type II cells produce surfactant. A fetus doesn't produce surfactant until 24 weeks gestation. This means that dead babies would potentially prevent more dead babies. Kind of interesting. Which baby do we save?

Currently we use surfactant replacement therapy on premature babies by literally instilling it into their lungs where it is dispersed and improves compliance. A lack of surfactant means that premature babies' lungs collapse with each breath making it very hard to breathe. I could see this being one way to administer this if it ever makes it into clinical use.

I don't really know how this would affect asthmatics but the inflammatory response to an asthma attack can cause the airways to be hypersensitive to any irritant. If you could regenerate lung tissue that wasn't so hypersensitive you could possibly get rid of that response.
posted by whatever at 8:03 PM on March 1, 2007


I guess I'll have to set up a website for contributions for my new pair of lungs.
posted by Goofyy at 7:11 AM on March 2, 2007


When even the press release says

"Still years away from their use in regenerative medicine, Wetsel said the next step involves research trials with mice."

You know this is going to be some time.
posted by lalochezia at 7:45 AM on March 2, 2007


Gets cooler the more I look into it.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:31 PM on March 2, 2007


When even the press release says

"Still years away from their use in regenerative medicine, Wetsel said the next step involves research trials with mice."

You know this is going to be some time.
posted by lalochezia at 7:45 AM PST on March 2


What's even worse is that they haven't even tried to transplant or graft these cells into anything. They can only get them to differentiate in culture, which means they have no idea whether the cells are even viable as a therapy. Also, I wasn't aware that somatic cells from an adult (or newborn for that matter) could be coaxed to differentiate into lung alveolar cells, is this true?
posted by available at 9:50 PM on March 2, 2007


What's even worse is that they haven't even tried to transplant or graft these cells into anything. They can only get them to differentiate in culture, which means they have no idea whether the cells are even viable as a therapy.

Is the glass 80% empty or 20% full?

Ya gotta start somewhere.

Me, I'd rather be hearing about tentative, fits-and-starts scientific progress, stuff that has potential to help but remains unproven, than nothing at all.
posted by jason's_planet at 3:12 PM on March 4, 2007


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