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A New Lung Cell Discovery May Lead to Breakthroughs in COPD Research

By: April Carson

The publication of an article in Nature is sure to cause a stir within the scientific and medical communities, as anatomical discoveries are often prone to do. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have identified a previously unknown type of cell present in healthy human lungs. To describe one of the many functions they perform, researchers have given them a name, respiratory airway secretory (RAS) cells.

The research team believes that these RAS cells are integral to the proper function of the respiratory system, and their presence may explain why some people are more susceptible to developing COPD than others. In particular, the researchers believe that the loss of RAS cells is a key factor in the development of emphysema, one of the two primary types of COPD.

When the researchers at Perelman sought for an alternative model to the usual mouse lung to better understand anatomical distinctions in lung bronchioles and improve their knowledge of respiratory disorders, they came across it. The mouse lung anatomy is a small-scale replica with numerous variations from the human lung, despite the fact that it is rather comparable.

As a result, respiratory anatomy could not be entirely mapped. Donated excellent human tissue was found to be critical in moving the study forward.

Given its name, it's no surprise that scientists have discovered that the cells release a fluid that is essential for lung cell maintenance. The liquid wicks into the bronchial lining, increasing the efficiency of the delicate airways that transport air to the lungs. RAS cells, on the other hand, appear as undifferentiated, progenitor cells that can differentiate into alveolar type 2 cells through the notch and Wnt signaling pathway when necessary. Alveolar type 2 cells are required for protecting and regenerating alveolar cells, which allow more gas exchange surface area.

The study then broadened to persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), who were given a reasonable hope of recovery. The disease irritates and impairs the lungs and airways surrounding the lungs, making it impossible for a person to breathe properly. A COPD diagnosis might eventually result in an emphysema diagnosis, with only anti-inflammatory medications as treatment option.

The lungs of someone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are thought to have damaged RAS cells, according on researchers' findings. If true, the damage may be investigated in relation to RAS cell functioning, allowing for groundbreaking therapies to be developed. Understanding RAS cell restorative abilities might help cure or slow the progression of COPD by preventing declines in alveolar epithelial function and/or death of alveolar cells.

Edward E. Morrisey, one of the article's authors and a professor at Perelman, says that cells have been given novel names:

“RAS cells are called facultative progenitors, which means they can function as both proliferative and functional progenitor cells in the airway.”

While the study looked at a small sample of patients, it did find that those with COPD had lower numbers of RAS cells. The researchers hope to confirm their findings in future studies with larger patient populations.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., deaths caused by COPD have declined significantly among both males and females over the last 19 years. This could be because smoking degrades one's health but cardiovascular activities preserve respiratory power, as has been widely recognized.

The existence of RAS cells has been documented in a variety of species, including as small as ferrets, but there is more study to be done to determine how many species have these amazing cells. The scientific community will undoubtedly embrace any new research possibilities that exploit the regeneration seen in RAS cells, while people with COPD and their physicians are about to get a serious dose of optimism.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, could lead to new treatments for COPD, a progressive and currently incurable lung disease that affects more than 65 million people worldwide.

Exposed with Elisabeth & Valeria


About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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