October 27 2011 Stem cells repair lung damage after flu infection

Researchers have now identified and characterized adult stem cells that have the capacity to regenerate lung tissue. The findings, which come from studies of isolated human stem cells and of mice infected with a particularly nasty strain of H1N1 influenza virus, could lead to new regenerative therapies for acute and chronic airway diseases, according to the report published in the October 28th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication.

“This virus is as close as you can get to the one responsible for the 1918 influenza pandemic,” said Frank McKeon of the Genome Institute of Singapore and the Harvard Medical School in Boston. “You get massive lung damage, infiltration of white cells, and loss of lung tissues. Two months out, the lungs miraculously look normal again.”

Infections with this H1N1 strain cause acute respiratory distress syndrome, marked by extensive lung damage and low levels of oxygen in the blood. What hasn’t been clear is what happens to the lungs of those who manage to survive.

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