Scientists at the University of Cambridge have successfully created 'mini-lungs' using stem cells derived from skin cells of patients with cystic fibrosis, and have shown that these can be used to test potential new drugs for this debilitating lung disease.
The research is one of a number of studies that have used stem cells — the body's master cells — to grow 'organoids', 3D clusters of cells that mimic the behaviour and function of specific organs within the body, a university release said.
The results have been published in the journal Stem Cells and Development.
"In a sense, what we've created are mini-lungs," explains Nick Hannan, who led the study.
"While they only represent the distal part of lung
tissue, they are grown from human cells and so can be more reliable than using traditional animal models, such as mice.
We can use them to learn more about key aspects of
serious diseases - in our case, cystic fibrosis."
He added, "We're confident this process could be scaled up to enable us to screen tens of thousands of compounds and develop mini-lungs with other diseases such as lung cancer and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis," adds Hannan.
"This is far more practical, should provide more reliable data and is also more ethical than using large numbers of mice for such research."