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Researchers Study Stem Cells in Human Lungs

Injected into mouse tissue, the cells proliferate and renew

WEDNESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have found evidence of identifiable human lung stem cells, which appear capable of self-renewal and may have potential for restoring tissue in damaged lungs; their findings have been published in the May 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Jan Kajstura, Ph.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues studied surgical lung-tissue specimens in situ to identify and characterize human lung stem cells, and to define their functional properties and phenotype.

The researchers identified undifferentiated human lung stem cells in niches in the distal airways. They described these cells as self-renewing, clonogenic, and multipotent in vitro, and found that, when injected into damaged mouse lung in vivo, they formed bronchioles, alveoli, and pulmonary vessels integrated structurally and functionally with the damaged organ. Also, serial-transplantation assays revealed self-renewal and long-term proliferation of human lung stem cells.

"Human lungs contain identifiable stem cells. In animal models, these cells participate in tissue homeostasis and regeneration. They have the undemonstrated potential to promote tissue restoration in patients with lung disease," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry; the author of the editorial disclosed a financial relationship with Fate Therapeutics Inc.

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