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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008 Aug 15;5(6):689-94. doi: 10.1513/pats.200801-010AW.

Epithelial cell-extracellular matrix interactions and stem cells in airway epithelial regeneration.

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INSERM UMRS 903, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Maison Blanche, 45 rue Cognacq Jay, 51092 Reims Cedex, France.


In healthy subjects, the respiratory epithelium forms a continuous lining to the airways and to the environment, and plays a unique role as a barrier against external deleterious agents to protect the airways from the insults. In respiratory diseases such as cystic fibrosis (CF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, or asthma, the airway epithelium is frequently remodeled and injured, leading to the impairment of its defense functions. The rapid restoration of the epithelial barrier is crucial for these patients. The complete regeneration of the airway epithelium is a complex phenomenon, including not only the epithelial wound repair but also the epithelial differentiation to reconstitute a fully well differentiated and functional epithelium. The regeneration implies two partners: the epithelial stem/progenitor cells and factors able to regulate this process. Among these factors, epithelial cells-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions play a crucial role. The secretion of a provisional ECM, the cell-ECM relationships through epithelial receptors, and the remodeling of the ECM by proteases (mainly matrix metalloproteinases) contribute not only to airway epithelial repair by modulating epithelial cell migration and proliferation, but also to the differentiation of repairing cells leading to the complete restoration of the wounded epithelium. A better characterization of resident stem cells and of effectors of the regeneration process is an essential prerequisite to propose new regenerative therapeutics to patients suffering from infectious/inflammatory respiratory diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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