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Newly discovered airway cells may shed light on SIDS and other conditions

Research reveals distinct types of cells that may be involved in breathing-related diseases in infants

Date:
April 20, 2021
Source:
Massachusetts General Hospital
Summary:
Pulmonary neuroendocrine cells, found in the human airway, are more varied than previously thought. Higher levels of certain types of pulmonary neuroendocrine cells are linked to sudden infant death syndrome and other breathing-related conditions.
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Recent research links certain cells that line the human airway with different infant diseases. The work, which is published in Cell Reports and was led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), could lead to new prevention and treatment strategies for these conditions.

The human airway -- from the windpipe to the lungs -- is lined with epithelial cells, including a type called pulmonary neuroendocrine cells (PNECs) that communicate with the nervous system and secrete different factors and hormones. Increased numbers and clusters of PNECs have been observed in various breathing-related illnesses, but the cells' roles in health and disease are unclear. To better understand PNECs and their effects in the body, researchers analyzed lung and airway tissues from humans and mice.

The scientists were surprised to find that PNECs are much more varied than previously described. In fact, it appears that the airway harbors three distinct types of PNECs. Some PNECs express a protein called tubulin beta 3 class III (TUBB3), and this protein is required for protrusions involved in communication between the cells and their environment. Therefore, PNECs with and without TUBB3 may have different sensing mechanisms. Also, higher numbers of certain PNECs were present in autopsied tissues from children who had died from diseases such as sudden infant death syndrome and neuroendocrine hyperplasia in infancy, a rare lung disorder of unknown cause.

"We are currently studying how different subpopulations of PNECs differ in their function," says senior author Xingbin Ai, PhD, a pulmonary disease specialist in the Department of Pediatrics at MGH. "We hope to leverage this knowledge for future development of markers and treatment strategies for infant diseases that involve abnormalities in these cells."


Story Source:

Materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hongmei Mou, Ying Yang, Molly A. Riehs, Juliana Barrios, Manjunatha Shivaraju, Adam L. Haber, Daniel T. Montoro, Kimberly Gilmore, Elisabeth A. Haas, Brankica Paunovic, Jayaraj Rajagopal, Sara O. Vargas, Robin L. Haynes, Alan Fine, Wellington V. Cardoso, Xingbin Ai. Airway basal stem cells generate distinct subpopulations of PNECs. Cell Reports, 2021; 35 (3): 109011 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109011

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts General Hospital. "Newly discovered airway cells may shed light on SIDS and other conditions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210420121536.htm>.
Massachusetts General Hospital. (2021, April 20). Newly discovered airway cells may shed light on SIDS and other conditions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210420121536.htm
Massachusetts General Hospital. "Newly discovered airway cells may shed light on SIDS and other conditions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210420121536.htm (accessed May 27, 2024).

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