Lung stem cells and their function in health, repair and diseaseWe are currently translating and updating the material in your language. While the translation of the previous version is available, or you can select English above to read the latest version in English.
Chronic lung diseases, including cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are among the leading causes of death in Europe. They cost the EU more than 100 billion euros a year. These diseases lead to changes in cells within the lungs. Research on lung stem cells could help find causes of these diseases. To serve as a basis for future treatment options.
What we know? many of the most common lung diseases in Europe such as lung cancer. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is caused by changes in cells within the lungs. Studies of stem cells in the lungs may provide new insights into these diseases. Be the basis for future treatment options.
Lung stem cells are important for the first steps in the development of the lungs in the fetus. In addition, recent work suggests that they are important in repairing lung injury in adults. Depending on the damage the adult lung has received, it uses different stem cell populations. Damage caused by influenza, for example, is repaired by different stem cells than damage caused by chemical inhalation.
What researchers are studying? ▼
Lung stem cells are found in the developing lung in the fetus and in the adult lung, but these cells are not exactly the same. Researchers now know that changes are taking place, but so far little is known about how these cells differ.
Some scientists are studying the control mechanism that determines which lung stem cells are activated after injury or infection.
Researchers are investigating how damage to genes that control lung stem cell growth and proliferation may give rise to cells that continue to divide, multiply and then potentially develop into lung cancer.
So far, most of the research on lung stem cells has been done in mice, but the first studies are now also looking at how the previous results can be applied to human lung cells.
What are the challenges? ▼
Studies of how human lung cells function in the laboratory are very difficult because these cells form complex structures and ties that cannot yet be artificially replicated in the laboratory. However, recent advances in oranoid culturing conditions have been applied to the lung. Allowing some behavior of human lung stem cells to be studied.
Our lungs have to work hard. During an average lifetime, humans use their lungs for 20-40 million breaths, resulting in a daily airflow of between 7,000 and 10,000 liters. Mammalian lungs are composed of two distinct regions:
1. 1. The air-conducting part of the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles; and 2. 2. the gas exchange regions, also called alveoli or alveoli.
Researchers have found that both of these lung regions have unique types of stem and progenitor cells. Progenitor cells are found in abundance in both regions of healthy lungs. These cells divide to replace old or damaged lung cells, keeping the lungs healthy. Progenitor cells include tracheal basal cells, bronchiolar secretory cells (also called club cells), and alveolar type II cells. Continuous cell division of these progenitor cells is thought to be sufficient to renew the structure of the lung throughout adult life.
Stem cells are much rarer than progenitor cells, but are found in both embryonic and adult lungs. Some of them contribute to initial lung development, while others help repair and regenerate the lung throughout life. It is thought that stem cell-derived problems may play a critical role in lung disease. A rare stem cell population was discovered in mouse lungs in the conducting airways. These cells can divide in disease situations (e.g.B. during flu-like infections) divide to produce new cells that help repair both the airways and the gas exchange regions. Stem cells of this type have already been cultured in the laboratory (in vitro culture). Have been shown to be functional in treating diseased mouse lungs.
Left: Tie section of an adult lung. Right: anatomy of the lung and lung stem cells
A better understanding of the cell biology of lung stem and progenitor cells may expand our knowledge of how healthy lungs function. This, in turn, may shed light on the causes of lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Such research could thus lead to the development of new drugs or other treatment options. Lung stem cells could also be used in future therapies to repair or regenerate the lungs of patients with severe lung damage or lung disease.
Lung stem cells have been identified and characterized primarily in genetically-altered mice These studies have allowed researchers to identify the differences between embryonic and adult lung stem cells, discover the role of stem cells in lung repair, and explore how changes in lung stem cells can lead to lung disease. A current focus of research is to find out whether the same stem and progenitor cells as in mice can also be found in humans.
Fluorescent labeling of progenitor and stem cells before and after lung injury
In addition, researchers are working to determine the role of stem cells in various lung diseases such as cancer and COPD. They have also begun to explore potential clinical applications in initial human studies to determine if lung stem cells can support lung regeneration or even replace the entire organ.
As scientists improve their understanding of the exact identity and function of lung stem cells, the potential of lung stem cells for clinical applications becomes clear. Researchers will discover drugs that control lung stem cells and can be tested as a treatment for lung disease. Further research will also investigate the use of lung stem cells in individually tailored therapies.