A research done at the University of Pennsylvania identifies that stem cells can repair the lungs ,the main organ of gas exchange. The scientists from Ed Morrisey Lab isolated and characterised progenitor stem cells from mouse and employ them in human lungs for their regenerative properties. This was done to repair the damaged lung tissue by severe influenza and other respiratory conditions.
These isolated stem cells from the mouse and human alveolar stem cells were made to grow into large organoids of lungs bits. These stem cells developed into many types of epithelial cells including type1 gas exchange cells and surfactant producing type 2 cells.
This research was piloted by professor Edward Morrisey of the cell and development biology division, who was also heading the Institute of regenerative medicine as a Director. The entire process of development of the lung and respiratory system of humans was evolved to adapt to live on land. Thus, lungs are vital for all terrestrial beings and mammals. The lungs are integrated with complex cardiovascular system making it all the more interesting for regenerative medicine to conduct studies on. Cardiovascular disease and cancer are the leading cause of death in the world, so this study is really expected to be a lifesaver.
In the lung, the important place where regeneration of cells occur is the alveoli. It is where the exchange of gases such as oxygen is being taken by the blood and carbon dioxide being exhaled happens. Alveoli has different types of cells, the epithelial cells that line the surfaces of the lung, where gaseous exchange takes place.
The role of the stem cells would be to restore the normal respiratory function of the epithelial cells after a severe injury caused by influenza and COPD. Other organs such as intestine and stomach o cause overall turnover of the epithelial lining every 5 days, but in the case of lungs the turnover of these cells upon injury is very slow. This can be sorted effectively by the regeneration of stem cells in the lungs.
In this study, the scientists also identified alveolar epithelial progenitor (AEP) stem cells that embedded in larger alveolar type 2 cells and these cells were capable to produce even the surfactant cells that help to keep the lungs in place from collapsing. It also had surface protein molecules called TM4SF1 that helped in the isolation of alveolar epithelial progenitor in human beings.
The team currently has access to 300 lungs and in future will also study the AEPs increased response to acute lung injury or chronic lungs diseases. This latest innovation proves that stem cells are extensively used in clinical trials of various conditions and is also expected to be the future of medicine. To know more about the ongoing clinical trials: https://www.lifecell.in/about-stem-cells