Using pig lungs to learn about cystic fibrosis-related lung infections

Author: Microbiology Society

British people don't buy lungs because they really don't know what to do with them. The majority of them now either end up in faggots, or ends up in a dog mince. The first thing we do in the morning is pick up fresh lungs from the butcher.

We bring them into our lab, we check the tissue is nice and fresh and healthy and hasn't been damaged in transport. We work on how bacteria behave and evolve during very long live chronic infections, and we're currently working on developing a new model for studying lung infections in cystic fibrosis using sections of pig lung tissue. Cystic fibrosis is perhaps the most common genetic disorder among white people its an imbalance in salt and mucous transport in body and the upshot is that people with cystic fibrosis get very thick sticky mucus filling their lungs and airways and that makes them very very susceptible to bacterial infection. Most people with cystic fibrosis unfortunately die of respiratory failure as a result of long-lived chronic infections. What we really need moment is a new model system for studying chronic lung infections and we are using sections of pig lung tissue. This is great, firstly because pigs are very similar to humans, we have a lung which is in its structure and its biochemistry and its immunology very similar to a human's, so it's much better than just looking at a test tube or a Petri dish. We actually source our lung from a local butcher, so this is post-consumer waste from the human foodchain So it's a nice ethical model.

It's in line with the push to reduce the use of live animals in research. And we have an excellent local butcher at the moment that we use who has his own herd of pigs so we have a single source in a single land race of pig for our work. This shop is a pretty amazing little place, I've been here since the age of 12, I started working here as a Saturday boy. We're a traditional English butcher, my parents are foreign so I've brought a central European slant to it. We've become a a little butcher with a huge reputation All my meat comes from two farms, my beef from Roger Jackson, my pigs and my lamb (and that's where the lungs come from) is from gentlemen called Richard and Andrew Boff. They're about 12-15 miles from the shop.

So everything we do is outdoor reared , it's free-range and that's where all the lungs come from. I know that that lung's gonna be good or that that animal's gonna be good because it's stamped, it's tattooed, so there's no way around it whatever comes into the shop is off my own animals. I have no concerns at all about the lungs being used, whether it's in medical or whether it's in the food process it will be amazing, and I'll be just happy to be connected with it really, and if we can do just a little bit to help whoever - fantastic. So this method using the explanted pig lung was originally published in the late nineteen seventies. And while veterinary scientists have used this method using lungs from rodents in the lab, the idea of using the pig tissue from the butcher really seems to have dropped out of use. And we think this is a shame because it's got a lot of potential so we're seeing how far we can actually go with this model and what we can do with it.

Using pig lungs to learn about cystic fibrosis-related lung infections

So the next thing for us to do is to really work out what are the advantages and the drawbacks of using this model, what can we do with it, and what can't we do with it so we need to work with our existing collaborators at Nottingham and elsewhere to really see what experiments we can do in this system and particularly how well we can use our up-to-date imaging facilities to look at the structure of bacterial populations in these lungs.

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