With a number of research teams reporting that human stem cells are converted into heart cells, pancreatic beta cells, intestinal cells, liver cells, nerve cells, Hans-Willem Snoeck, from the Columbia Center for Translational Immunology (New York, USA), and colleagues have discovered that new factors can complete the transformation of human stem cells into functional lung epithelial cells. The resultant cells were found to express markers of at least six types of long and airway epithelial cells, particularly markers of type 2 alveolar epithelial cells – important because they produce a surfactant that maintains the lung alveoli, and participate in the lung repair after injury or damage. The findings have implications ultimately for the potential to produce an autologous lung graft – generating lung tissue sufficient for transplantation from a patient's own stem cells.
Huang SX, Islam MN, O'Neill J, Hu Z, Yang YG, Snoeck HW, et al. “Efficient generation of lung and airway epithelial cells from human pluripotent stem cells.” Nat Biotechnol. 2013 Dec 1.
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