Lung Story Short

Instant lungs: Just add water!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Organs for transplants are in short supply, and growing them is no joke. It takes human lungs YEARS to fully develop. But anole lizards can grow them in TWO DAYS? How?

Enter Michael Palmer and team from Princeton University. They used a microscope to observe the developing lung and surrounding muscle in lizard embryos. 

What did they see? Over the two days, the lizard lung fills with fluid and expands like a water balloon. The inflated lung pushes against the muscle, which forms a mesh-like bag around the lung. The lung bulges through gaps in the mesh like a stress ball between your fingers. These bulges are where waste gases are exchanged for oxygen. And that’s it! Presto – two-day lungs!

The researchers hope this will inspire new ways of engineering lungs and other organs.

Lung story short…That’s one way to save our breath! *Shudder*

Reference: Palmer, M. A., Nerger, B. A., Goodwin, K., Sudhakar, A., Lemke, S. B., Ravindran, P. T., Toettcher, J. E., Košmrlj, A., & Nelson, C. M. (2021). Stress ball morphogenesis: How the lizard builds its lung. Science Advances, 7(52).