Boston (Oct. 27, 2011)Guided by insights into how mice recover after H1N1 flu, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, together with researchers at A*STAR of Singapore, have cloned three distinct stem cells from the human airways and demonstrated that one of these cells can form into the lung's alveoli air sac tissue. What's more, the researchers showed that these same lung stem cells are rapidly deployed in a dynamic process of lung regeneration to combat damage from infection or chronic disease
"These findings suggest new cell- and factor-based strategies for enhancing lung regeneration following acute damage from infection, and even in chronic conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis," said Frank McKeon, professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School. Other senior authors on the paper include Wa Xian of the Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Christopher Crum, Director of Women's and Perinatal Pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The researchers worked as part of an international consortium involving scientists from Singapore and France.
The findings will be reported in the Oct. 28 issue of Cell.
For many years, clinicians have observed that patients who survive acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a form of airway damage involving wholesale destruction of large regions of lung tissue, often recover considerable pulmonary function within six to 12 months. But researchers did not know whether that recovery was due to lung regeneration or to some other kind of adaptive remodeling.
"This study helps clear up the uncertainty," said McKeon. "We have found that the lungs do in fact have a robust potential for regeneration, and we've identified the specific stem cells responsible."
To probe the potential for lung regeneration, Xian, McKeon and colleagues infected mice with a sublethal dosage of a virulent strain of H1N1
|Contact: David Cameron|
Harvard Medical School