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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1997 May;16(5):568-81.

Early fetal development of lung vasculature.

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Department of Pathology, St. Louis University School of Medicine, Missouri, USA.


Despite its relevance to a variety of congenital anomalies, the earliest stages of lung vascular development are poorly understood. In other organs, two processes have been identified: vasculogenesis, the development of blood lakes in mesenchyme, and angiogenesis, the branching of new vessels from preexisting ones. In the present study we established the events in the development of the lung's vasculature in Swiss-Weber mouse fetuses between 9 and 20 days gestation, using light microscopy (LM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), barium-gelatin angiograms, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of Mercox (methyl methacrylate) vascular casts. Three features were identified: (1) central sprouting or angiogenesis for up to approximately seven generations (counting the artery to each lung as first generation); (2) the formation of peripheral lakes by vasculogenesis; and (3) the development of communications between the central and peripheral systems. At 9 days gestation, intercellular spaces were apparent in the lung mesenchyme; these were formed by discharge of vesicles from mesenchymal cells, which then regrouped to provide "endothelial" cells lining the spaces. The isolated lakes coalesced to form sinusoidal spaces of irregular profile. At 12 days gestation, the earliest time at which were able to make a cast, sprouting of arteries and veins from the central pulmonary vascular trunks was apparent. Between 13 and 14 days gestation the earliest connection between the peripheral and central spaces was identified. Such connections became more numerous and dense by term. Similar images seen on examination of human fetal lung sections by LM indicated that similar processes occur in the vascular development of the human lung.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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