Researchers find lung stem cell, heal lung injury in mice

November 15, 2017 by Christopher Vaughan, Stanford University Medical Center
An image of an injured mouse lung partially regenerated by injected lung stem cells. The newly regenerated lung tissue is red, and the type-2 alveolar cells are green. Credit: Massimo Nichane

Stanford scientists have found a cell that creates the two different compartments in the mouse lung. They hope their discovery could lead to better therapies for people with lung disease.

A researcher at the School of Medicine and his colleagues have succeeded in isolating mouse lung stem , growing them in large volumes and incorporating them into injured lung tissue in mice.

The work raises hopes for regenerative therapies that could heal currently intractable lung diseases.

A study describing the research was published online Nov. 6 in Nature Methods. Kyle Loh, PhD, an investigator at the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and Bing Lim, MD, PhD, an investigator at the Genome Institute of Singapore, share senior authorship. The lead author is Massimo Nichane, PhD, currently a research scientist at the Stanford stem cell institute.

The lungs are among the most vital organs of the body. In conjunction with the cardiovascular system, they allow air to travel to every cell and get rid of the waste products of respiration, such as carbon dioxide. For many people with end-stage lung diseases, the only option is lung transplantation.

"Scientists have previously had little success in putting new lung cells into damaged lung to regenerate healthy tissue," Loh said. "We decided to see if we could do that in an animal model."

The researchers started by working to improve on current knowledge of lung stem cells. The lung is divided into two compartments, Loh said: the airway, which allows for passage of air in and out of the lung; and the alveoli, where gases pass in and out of the blood. Other researchers had previously isolated one stem cell for the airway and another stem cell for the alveoli. Loh and his colleagues searched for and found a single lung stem cell that could create cells in both the airway and the alveoli. These multipotent lung stem cells were typified by their display of a protein marker called Sox9.

From one to 100 billion billion

Once they had isolated the stem cells, they were able to make them multiply dramatically. Each mouse lung stem cell that they start started with was able to grow into 100 billion billion lung stem cells over the course of six months. Previously, researchers had not had much success expanding any populations in the laboratory.

Finally, they injected the stem cells into mouse lungs that had been injured by a variety of toxins.  "What we saw was that these repaired the injured tissue and were able to differentiate into the many different kinds of cells that make up the healthy lung," said Nichane.

"Our newfound ability to grow these mouse multipotent lung stem cells in a petri dish in very large numbers, and the cells' ability to regenerate both lung airway and alveolar tissue, constitutes a first step towards future regenerative therapies," Loh said. "Future work will focus on whether analogous multipotent stem cells can be found and cultivated from humans, which may open the way to eventually replenishing damaged in the clinic."

Explore further: 3-D organoids and RNA sequencing reveal the crosstalk driving lung cell formation

More information: Massimo Nichane et al. Isolation and 3D expansion of multipotent Sox9+ mouse lung progenitors, Nature Methods (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.4498

Related Stories

3-D organoids and RNA sequencing reveal the crosstalk driving lung cell formation

September 7, 2017
To stay healthy, our lungs have to maintain two key populations of cells: the alveolar epithelial cells, which make up the little sacs where gas exchange takes place, and bronchiolar epithelial cells (also known as airway ...

US researchers identify first human lung stem cell

May 11, 2011
For the first time, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have identified a human lung stem cell that is self-renewing and capable of forming and integrating multiple biological structures of the lung including ...

Tracking nanodiamond-tagged stem cells

August 5, 2013
A method that is used to track the fate of a single stem cell within mouse lung tissue is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. The method may offer insights into the factors that determine ...

Space station crew takes a breather with lung tissue investigation

October 23, 2017
The microgravity environment of the International Space Station impacts nearly every system within the human body. Researchers are studying the effects to the eyes, heart, muscles, and bones, but an area that hasn't received ...

Researchers reverse some lung diseases in mice by coaxing production of healthy cells

January 30, 2014
It may be possible one day to treat several lung diseases by introducing proteins that direct lung stem cells to grow the specific cell types needed to repair the lung injuries involved in the conditions, according to new ...

Trials show unique stem cells a potential asthma treatment

June 28, 2017
A study led by scientists at Monash University has shown that a new therapy developed through stem cell technology holds promise as a treatment for chronic asthma.

Recommended for you

Evidence that addictive behaviors have strong links with ancient retroviral infection

September 24, 2018
New research from an international team led by Oxford University's Department of Zoology and the National-Kapodistrian University of Athens, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows ...

Taking a catnap? Mouse mutation shown to increase need for sleep

September 24, 2018
Sleep is vital for adequate functioning across the animal kingdom, but little is known about the physiological mechanisms that regulate it, or the reasons for natural variation in people's sleep patterns.

New findings on the muscle disease Laing early-onset distal myopathy

September 24, 2018
New avenues are now being opened toward treatment of Laing distal myopathy, a rare disorder that causes atrophy of the muscles in the feet, hands and elsewhere. In a study published in the journal PNAS, researchers have identified ...

Reconstructing healthy liver cells using a nanomaterial-based matrix 

September 24, 2018
NUS pharmaceutical scientists, together with clinicians from the National University Health System (NUHS), have developed a nanomaterial-based hydrogel that encourages amniotic epithelial cells (a type of stem cell) to grow ...

Know someone sick? Your own smell might give it away

September 24, 2018
Odors surround us, providing cues about many aspects of personal identity, including health status. Now, research from the Monell Center extends the scope and significance of personal odors as a source of information about ...

Japanese team creates human oogonia using human stem cells in artificial mouse ovaries

September 21, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in Japan has successfully generated human oogonia inside of artificial mouse ovaries using human stem cells. In their paper published in the journal Science, the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.