Thursday, October 29, 2009

Canadian scientists use gene therapy to repair injured donor lungs

Congratulations to Dr. Shaf Keshavjee and his team at Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, for their success in the use of gene therapy to repair injured lungs that were previously unsuitable for transplant. This breakthrough has the potential for global impact in the effort to provide more organs for transplant.

Researchers used the Toronto XVIVO Lung Perfusion System to continuously pump a bloodless solution of oxygen, proteins and nutrients into injured donor lungs, mimicking normal physiological conditions and warming the lungs to normal body temperatures. This makes it possible for the injured cells to begin repairing themselves, and also sets the stage for gene therapy repair techniques to be applied to donor lungs. The technique was shown to be simple and effective in improving lung function. Their results, “Functional Repair of Human Donor Lungs by IL-10 Gene Therapy,” are published in the October 28, 2009 edition of the journal SCIENCE Translational Medicine:

Toronto, Ontario - Breakthrough: For the first time, scientists in the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine at University Health Network have successfully used gene therapy to repair injured human donor lungs, making them potentially suitable for transplantation into patients. This technique could significantly expand the number of donor lungs by using organs that are currently discarded, and improve outcomes after transplantation.

In their pioneering work, a team of researchers led by Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Senior Scientist at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University Health Network and Director of the Lung Transplant Program, and the Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratories, developed a technique of ex vivo gene delivery to donor lungs, before they are implanted into a recipient's body. The technique was shown to be simple and effective in improving lung function.

To find out more about this research milestone, click here.

Ex-vivo lung

click here for video of breathing lung
click here for enhanced view of an ex vivo lung

Clinical trials on humans would be the next step in testing this promising approach before it could be used on patients waiting for lung transplants. In these future clinical trials, lungs repaired with the gene therapy will be offered to patients waiting for a life-saving lung transplant. Currently, more than 50 patients are waiting for either a lung or heart-lung transplant in Ontario. About 20% of those on the wait list will die before they receive a lung transplant. In Canada, the number of people waiting for a lung transplant has doubled in the past 10 years, with 252 Canadians waiting to receive a lung transplant in 2006, compared to 119 in 1997. Two hundred and ninety-nine (299) Canadians died while waiting for a lung transplant between 1997 and 2006. It is estimated that the number of donor organs available for lung transplants could easily be doubled with this technique to treat and improve donor lungs.

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