DURHAM, N.C. Stem cells that respond after a severe injury in the lungs of mice may be a source of rapidly dividing cells that lead to lung cancer, according to a team of American and British researchers.
"There are chemically resistant, local-tissue stem cells in the lung that only activate after severe injury," said Barry R. Stripp, Ph.D., professor of medicine and cell biology at Duke University Medical Center. "Cigarette smoke contains a host of toxic chemicals, and smoking is one factor that we anticipate would stimulate these stem cells. Our findings demonstrate that, with severe injury, the resulting repair response leads to large numbers of proliferating cells that are derived from these rare stem cells."
Stripp said this finding could be related to the increased incidence of lung cancer in people with chronic disease states, in particular among cigarette smokers.
The findings were published in the advance online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of May 25.
"On the positive side, I think that it might be possible to improve lung function in the context of disease if we could understand which pathways regulate lung stem cell activation and then target these pharmacologically," said lead author Adam Giangreco, Ph.D., from Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute. "In terms of lung cancer susceptibility, however, our observation that stem cell activation leads to clonal expansion after injury could, in the context of additional mutations, promote the development of cancerous or precancerous lesions from activated stem cells."
The scientists used a chimeric mouse model, part wild-type and part with green fluorescent protein-tagged cells (GFP), so that the behavior of different populations of duplicating lung cells could be evaluated with high-resolution imaging methods. By understanding the extent to which GFP-positive and GFP-negative cells were mix
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Duke University Medical Center