Scientists have used human stem cells to create functional lung and airway cells, according to a study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology
The latest research, reported by a team from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), could have significant potential for modeling lung disease, screening drugs, studying human lung development, and generating lung tissue for transplantation.
"Researchers have had relative success in turning human stem cells into heart cells, pancreatic beta cells, intestinal cells, liver cells, and nerve cells, raising all sorts of possibilities for regenerative medicine," stated study leader Hans-Willem Snoeck, MD, PhD
, professor of medicine in microbiology and immunology. "Now, we are finally able to make lung and airway cells. This is important because lung transplants have a particularly poor prognosis. Although any clinical application is still many years away, we can begin thinking about making autologous lung transplants - that is, transplants that use a patient's own skin cells to generate functional lung tissue."
In 2011, Snoeck discovered a set of chemical factors that can turn human embryonic stem (ES) cells or human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into anterior foregut endoderm. In the latest study, the team found new factors that complete the transformation of human ES or iPS cells into functioning lung epithelial cells.