Findings shine light on underpinnings of COPD, pave new direction for future research on treatments.
April 10, 2022
A new type of cell that resides deep within human lungs and may play a key role in human lung diseases has been discovered by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The researchers, who report their findings today in Nature, analyzed human lung tissue to identify the new cells, which they call respiratory airway secretory cells (RASCs). The cells line tiny airway branches, deep in the lungs, near the alveoli structures where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. The scientists showed that RASCs have stem-cell-like properties enabling them to regenerate other cells that are essential for the normal functioning of alveoli. They also found evidence that cigarette smoking and the common smoking-related ailment called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can disrupt the regenerative functions of RASCs—hinting that correcting this disruption could be a good way to treat COPD.