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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008 Aug 15;5(6):675-81. doi: 10.1513/pats.200801-006AW.

Lung epithelial progenitor cells: lessons from development.

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Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


The current enthusiasm for stem cell research stems from the hope that damaged or diseased tissues may one day be repaired through the manipulation of endogenous or exogenous stem cells. The postnatal human respiratory system is highly accessible and provides unique opportunities for the application of such techniques. Several putative adult lung epithelial stem cells have been identified in the mouse model system. However, their in vivo capabilities to contribute to different lineages, and their control mechanisms, remain unclear. If stem cell-based therapies are to be successful in the lung, it is vitally important that we understand the normal behavior of adult lung stem cells, and how this is regulated. Lung embryonic progenitor cells are much better defined and characterized than their adult counterparts. Moreover, experiments on a variety of developing tissues are beginning to uncover general mechanisms by which embryonic progenitors influence final organ size and structure. This provides a framework for the study of lung embryonic progenitor cells, facilitating experimental design and interpretation. A similar approach to investigating adult lung stem cells could produce rapid advances in the field.

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