12 July 2024
Human mini-lungs: Mimicking animal responses

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Understanding Human Mini-Lungs: A Breakthrough in Nanomaterial Safety Testing

In a groundbreaking development, scientists at the University of Manchester have successfully grown human mini-lungs that could serve as an alternative to animal testing for assessing the safety of nanomaterials. These human mini-lungs, also known as lung organoids, have shown the ability to mimic the responses of animals when exposed to certain nanomaterials, as detailed in a study published in Nano Today. Led by cell biologist and nanotoxicologist Dr. Sandra Vranic, the research team believes that while human organoids may not completely replace animal models, they could significantly reduce the number of animals used in research.

Creating Human Mini-Lungs from Stem Cells

Human lung organoids are three-dimensional structures grown in a dish from human stem cells. They are designed to replicate key features of human lung tissues, including cellular complexity and architecture. These organoids have been increasingly utilized to study various pulmonary diseases such as cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, and infectious diseases like SARS-CoV-2. However, until now, their ability to accurately capture tissue responses to nanomaterial exposure had not been demonstrated.

Validating Human Mini-Lungs for Nanomaterial Testing

To assess the response of human lung organoids to carbon-based nanomaterials, lead scientist Dr. Rahaf Issa developed a method to precisely dose and microinject nanomaterials into the organoids. This approach simulated the real-life exposure of the pulmonary epithelium, the outer layer of cells lining the respiratory passages in the lungs. Previous animal research had shown that certain carbon nanotubes could induce adverse effects in the lungs, leading to inflammation and fibrosis. Remarkably, the team’s human lung organoids exhibited a similar biological response to these nanomaterials, validating their utility in predicting tissue reactions.

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Published on: February 14, 2014 Description: Texas researchers grew a human lung in a lab but they say it will be years before the process can be used on humans.
Scientists grow a human lung in a lab
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The Future of Human Mini-Lungs in Nanotoxicology Research

In a significant advancement, Dr. Issa and Dr. Vranic are now working on developing human lung organoids that incorporate an immune cell component. This innovative approach aims to enhance the organoids’ ability to mimic the complex interactions between nanomaterials and the immune system within lung tissue. Dr. Vranic emphasized that with further validation and prolonged exposure testing, human lung organoids could potentially reduce the reliance on animal models in nanotoxicology research.

Professor Kostas Kostarelos, Chair of Nanomedicine at the University, highlighted the limitations of current two-dimensional cell culture models in assessing nanomaterial toxicity. He emphasized that while animals will still be necessary for certain research purposes, three-dimensional organoids present an exciting prospect as a more human-relevant and ethically sound alternative to animal testing.

The development of human mini-lungs represents a significant step forward in the quest for more humane and effective methods of testing nanomaterial safety. By harnessing the power of human organoids, researchers are poised to gain deeper insights into the interactions between nanomaterials and human tissues, ultimately paving the way for safer and more reliable assessments of nanomaterial toxicity without the need for animal experimentation.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.nature.com 2. www.science.org 3. www.cell.com

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Stem cell biology, Lung organoids, Nanotoxicology

Stem cell
In multicellular organisms, stem cells are undifferentiated or partially differentiated cells that can change into various types of cells and proliferate indefinitely to produce more of the same stem cell. They are the earliest type of cell in a cell lineage. They are found in both embryonic and adult organisms,...
Read more: Stem cell

Organoid
An organoid is a miniaturised and simplified version of an organ produced in vitro in three dimensions that mimics the key functional, structural, and biological complexity of that organ. It is derived from one or a few cells from a tissue, embryonic stem cells, or induced pluripotent stem cells, which...
Read more: Organoid

Nanotoxicology
Nanotoxicology is the study of the toxicity of nanomaterials. Because of quantum size effects and large surface area to volume ratio, nanomaterials have unique properties compared with their larger counterparts that affect their toxicity. Of the possible hazards, inhalation exposure appears to present the most concern, with animal studies showing...
Read more: Nanotoxicology

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