Scientists in Boston, Massachusetts have discovered that human lung stem cells do exist, contrary to most scientific thinking at present. This discovery could lead to completely new treatments that repair and regenerate damaged tissues in patients with chronic lung diseases. And developments would however take some time as there is still a lot of work to be done according to the authors of a paper published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Author on the study Dr Piero Anversa, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, Massachusetts, and her colleagues found the human lung stem cell to be self-renewing, playing an important role in regenerating tissue and possibly also helping to repair damaged lung cells.
They also found that the stem cell can create and integrate different biological structures of the lung, including the alveoli, the tiny breathing sacs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the air and blood; bronchioles, the small airways that connect the alveoli to the main airways; and pulmonary vessels, the blood vessels that supply the lungs with blood.
Anversa informed the media that her team has for the first time found a “true human lung stem cell”.
“The discovery of this stem cell has the potential to offer those who suffer from chronic lung diseases a totally novel treatment option by regenerating or repairing damaged areas of the lung,” he added.
Anversa’s co-author Dr Joseph Loscalzo, chair of the Department of Medicine at BWH said they were “excited about the impact this discovery could have on our ability to regenerate or recreate new lung tissues to replace damaged areas of the lungs”.
Yet he also noted that more research is necessary to build on these “critical first steps” before new clinical treatments for people with currently untreatable lung diseases can be developed.
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