The researchers at Duke and Cancer Research UK used a unique whole-lung imaging method to examine and identify the location of stem cells in the lung tissue of mice, and determine the role they play in both healthy and damaged mouse lungs.
They found that, while the stem cells don't appear to be involved in the normal maintenance of healthy or moderately injured lungs, they do play a vital role in repairing severely damaged lungs.
Even though this repair mechanism is important for restoring lung function, it can come at a price. An acquired mutation in that rare cell or its descendants leads to clonal patches of many identical cells. Secondary mutations in any one of these cells may provide the signals needed for unregulated cell growth and tumor progression.
"This work provides a plausible mechanism to account for this type of event that we previously didn't have," Stripp said.
|Contact: Mary Jane Gore|
Duke University Medical Center