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J Anat. 2010 Nov;217(5):597-608. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01279.x. Epub 2010 Sep 6.

Implicit mechanistic role of the collagen, smooth muscle, and elastic tissue components in strengthening the air and blood capillaries of the avian lung.

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Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa.


To identify the forces that may exist in the parabronchus of the avian lung and that which may explain the reported strengths of the terminal respiratory units, the air capillaries and the blood capillaries, the arrangement of the parabronchial collagen fibers (CF) of the lung of the domestic fowl, Gallus gallus variant domesticus was investigated by discriminatory staining, selective alkali digestion, and vascular casting followed by alkali digestion. On the luminal circumference, the atrial and the infundibular CF are directly connected to the smooth muscle fibers and the elastic tissue fibers. The CF in this part of the parabronchus form the internal column (the axial scaffold), whereas the CF in the interparabronchial septa and those associated with the walls of the interparabronchial blood vessels form the external, i.e. the peripheral, parabronchial CF scaffold. Thin CF penetrate the exchange tissue directly from the interparabronchial septa and indirectly by accompanying the intraparabronchial blood vessels. Forming a dense network that supports the air and blood capillaries, the CF weave through the exchange tissue. The exchange tissue, specifically the air and blood capillaries, is effectively suspended between CF pillars by an intricate system of thin CF, elastic and smooth muscle fibers. The CF course through the basement membranes of the walls of the blood and air capillaries. Based on the architecture of the smooth muscle fibers, the CF, the elastic muscle fibers, and structures like the interparabronchial septa and their associated blood vessels, it is envisaged that dynamic tensional, resistive, and compressive forces exist in the parabronchus, forming a tensegrity (tension integrity) system that gives the lung rigidity while strengthening the air and blood capillaries.

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