Scientists Discover Human Lung Stem Cells

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital may have discovered and identified for the first time a human lung stem cell. The said stem cell in the lung is known to be self-renewing and is capable of forming into the different biological structures in the lungs. This discovery may someday pave the way for developing novel treatments for a number of lung diseases that may require the regeneration and repair of the damaged portions of the lungs. The said research is published in the May 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to Piero Anversa, MD, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine in BWH and the study’s co-author, “This research describes, for the first time, 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.”

The researchers obtained lung tissue from surgical samples and then identified and isolated the human lung stem cell. They also tested its functionality both in vitro and in vivo. The researchers was also able to demonstrate in vitro that the isolated human lung stem cell was capable of dividing into either new stem cells or into other cells that would become into different types of lung tissue.

The researchers also tested the human lung stem cells and injected them into mice with damaged lungs. The injected stem cells was able to form into different lung tissues and became new alveoli, bronchioles as well as pulmonary vessel cells. The stem cells not only formed new lung tissues but was also able to integrate into the existing lung tissues in the mice.

“These are the critical first steps in developing clinical treatments for those with lung disease for which no therapies exist. Further research is needed, but we are 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,” further added Joseph Loscalzo, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Medicine at BWH and the study’s co-author.

Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital (2011, May 12). Human lung stem cell discovered: Crucial role in tissue regeneration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 13, 2011, from


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