May help with COPD:
The researchers, who report their findings today in Nature, analyzed human lung tissue to identify the new cells, which they call respiratory airway secretory cells (RASCs). The cells line tiny airway branches, deep in the lungs, near the alveoli structures where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. The scientists showed that RASCs have stem-cell-like properties enabling them to regenerate other cells that are essential for the normal functioning of alveoli. They also found evidence that cigarette smoking and the common smoking-related ailment called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can disrupt the regenerative functions of RASCs—hinting that correcting this disruption could be a good way to treat COPD.
“COPD is a devastating and common disease, yet we really don’t understand the cellular biology of why or how some patients develop it. Identifying new cell types, in particular new progenitor cells, that are injured in COPD could really accelerate the development of new treatments,” said study first author Maria Basil, MD, PhD, an instructor of Pulmonary Medicine.
COPD typically features progressive damage to and loss of alveoli, exacerbated by chronic inflammation. It is estimated to affect approximately 10 percent of people in some parts of the United States and causes about 3 million deaths every year around the world. Patients often are prescribed steroid anti-inflammatory drugs and/or oxygen therapy, but these treatments can only slow the disease process rather than stop or reverse it. Progress in understanding COPD has been gradual in part because mice—the standard lab animal—have lungs that lack key features of human lungs.News Release, “Penn Researchers Discover New Cell Type in Human Lung with Regenerative Properties” at Penn Medicine News (April 1, 2022)
Did anyone notice that last point? “Progress in understanding COPD has been gradual in part because mice—the standard lab animal—have lungs that lack key features of human lungs.”
But then we tend to live much longer than mice too…
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