Children's Hospital Boston
Lung Stem Cells that Repair Air Sacs Could Lead to New Emphysema Treatment
In normal lungs, breathing is facilitated by tiny sacs within the lungs called alveoli, which allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and bloodstream. Damage to alveoli is the hallmark of lethal lung diseases like emphysema. We have uncovered lung stem cells that, upon lung injury, are capable of proliferating and repairing damaged tissues. We showed that specific signals sent by their neighboring cells direct this stem population into forming new alveoli. We will analyze the signals between the lung stem cells and their environment to harness the mechanism of alveolar repair. This could lead to new approaches to promote lung repair and alleviate the symptoms associated with chronic pulmonary diseases.
Update: In the past year, we collected preliminary data that suggest that a specific protein might play a role in the differentiation of lung stem cells into new alveolar structures upon injury caused by the chemotherapy drug bleomycin. We plan to spend the next year studying these findings and identifying new signaling pathways between the adult stem cells and their environment that can lead to new therapeutic approaches to promote lung repair.