The development of the bioartificial lung

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Introduction or background

The incidence of chronic lung disease is increasing worldwide due to the spread of risk factors and ageing population. An important advance in treatment would be the development of a bioartificial lung where the blood–gas exchange surface is manufactured from a synthetic or natural scaffold material that is seeded with the appropriate stem or progenitor cells to mimic the functional tissue of the natural lung.

Sources of data

Articles relating to bioartificial lungs were sourced through PubMed and ISI Web of Knowledge.

Areas of agreement

There is a consensus that advances in bioartificial lung engineering will be beneficial to patients with chronic lung failure. Ultimate success will require the concerted efforts of researchers drawn from a broad range of disciplines, including clinicians, cell biologists, materials scientists and engineers.

Areas of controversy

As a source of cells for use in bioartificial lungs it is proposed to use human embryonic stem cells; however, there are ethical and safety concerns regarding the use of these cells.

Growing points

There is a need to identify the optimum strategies for differentiating progenitor cells into functional lung cells; a need to better understand cell-biomaterial/ECM interactions and a need to understand how to harness the body's natural capacity to regenerate the lung.

Areas timely for developing research

Biomaterial technologies for recreating the natural lung ECM and architecture need further development. Mathematical modelling techniques should be developed for determining optimal scaffold seeding strategies and predicting gas exchange performance.

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