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Scientists Have Found New Human Body Part, Hiding in Lungs

A number of scientists managed to find a new type of cell that hides in the passageways of the human lungs, the texture is smooth and branched.

Adapted from Live Science, Monday (11/4/2022), these newly discovered cells are said to play an important role in keeping the respiratory system functioning properly.

In fact, it is considered to be able to inspire new treatments to reverse the effects of certain diseases associated with smoking.

These cells, known as the Respiratory Airway Secretory (RAS), are found in small branching sections of the lungs, known as bronchioles, where they end with alveoli, tiny air sacs that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the bloodstream.

These RAS cells are thought to be similar to stem cells, cells that can differentiate into other types of cells in the body, and are capable of repairing damaged alveolar cells and turning into new cells.

The researchers, however, discovered RAS cells after facing limitations by relying on mouse lungs as a model for the human respiratory system.

However, due to certain differences between the two, scientists have attempted to fill some gaps in knowledge about the human lung.

To gain a better understanding of these differences at the cellular level, the team took lung tissue samples from healthy human donors and analyzed the genes in the individual cells, revealing previously unknown RAS cells.

It has long been known that the airways of the human lungs are different from those of mice. But recently emerging technologies allow scientists to take samples and identify unique cell types.

The team also found RAS cells in ferrets, whose respiratory systems are more similar to those of humans than mice.

As a result, the researchers suspect that most mammals of the same or larger size tend to have RAS cells in their lungs.

Functions of the RAS in the Lungs

RAS cells serve two main functions in the lungs. First, they secrete molecules that maintain a layer of fluid along the bronchioles, helping prevent small airways from collapsing and maximizing lung efficiency.

Second, they can act as progenitor cells for type 2 alveolar cells (AT2), a special type of alveoli that secrete chemicals that are partly used to repair other damaged alveoli.

Progenitor cells themselves, are cells that have the capacity to differentiate into other cell types, similar to how stem cells differentiate into other cells.

RAS cells are so-called facultative progenitors, which act as progenitor cells and also have an important functional role in maintaining airway health. This means RAS cells play an important role in maintaining lung health.

Researchers think RAS cells may play a key role in smoking-related diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is the result of inflammation of the airways within the lungs, which can be caused by smoking and, occasionally, air pollution.

Inflammation of the airways makes it difficult for the lungs to properly take in enough oxygen, so COPD has symptoms similar to asthma.

COPD can also cause emphysema, in which the alveoli are permanently destroyed, and chronic bronchitis, a long-lasting and intense cough that is usually accompanied by excessive phlegm.

According to WHO, every year more than 3 million people worldwide die from COPD. In theory, RAS cells should prevent, or at least alleviate the effects of COPD by repairing damaged alveoli.

However, the researchers suspect that smoking can damage, or even completely destroy, the new cells that lead to diseases such as COPD.

Patients with COPD are often prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs or oxygen therapy to relieve their symptoms. However, this is only a temporary solution and does nothing to reverse lung damage.

RAS cells have the potential to be used to improve treatment or even cure COPD, if researchers can properly harness the regenerative properties of these cells.

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