Discovery of a new part of the human body hidden in the lungs

Scientists have discovered a new type of cell hidden inside the delicate, branching passages of human lungs.

The new cells play a vital role in keeping the respiratory system working properly and could even inspire new treatments to reverse the effects of some smoking-related diseases, according to the live science.

According to the new study, published in Nature on March 30, cells, known as airway secret cells (RAS), are found in the bronchioles, the terminal branches of the bronchi.

The bronchioles are tiny tubular structures less than 1 mm in diameter, from which other branches arise, the alveolar ducts, which end in the alveoli of the lungs.

New RAS cells are similar to a stem cell — “virgin” cells that differentiate themselves from any other type of cell in the body — and are able to repair damaged cells in the alveoli and grow into new cells.

The researchers discovered RAS cells after growing tired of the limitations of mouse lungs, used as models of the human respiratory system.

However, due to the differences between the two, scientists have struggled to bridge some knowledge gaps on human lungs.

To better understand these differences at the cellular level, the team took samples of lung tissue from healthy human donors and analyzed the genes in individual cells, which revealed RAS cells.

“It has been known for some time that the airways of the human lung are different from those of mice,” said Edward Morrisey, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

“But innovative technologies have only allowed us to identify cell types unique more recently,” he adds.

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

As a result, the research team suspects that most mammals of equal or larger size have RAS cells in your lungsnotes Morrisey.

RAS cells perform two main functions in the lungs. First, they secrete molecules that hold mucosal fluid along the bronchioles, helping to prevent airway collapse and maximize lung efficiency.

Second, they can serve as progenitor cells for alveolar type 2 (AT2) cells, a special type of alveoli that secrete a chemical used, in part, to repair other damaged alveoli.

A progenitor cell is a cell that has the ability to differentiate into another type of cell, similar to how stem cells differentiate from other cells.

“RAS cells are what we call parents optionalMorrisey points out, “meaning they act as progenitor cells and also have an important role in maintaining healthy airways.”

This means that RAS cells play a vital role in maintaining healthy lungs, according to the researcher.

Researchers believe that RAS cells may play a key role in smoking-related diseasessuch as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is the result of inflammation of the airways in the lungs, which can be caused by smoking and, occasionally, air pollution. Inflammation of the airways makes it harder for the lungs to take in enough oxygen.

As a result, COPD has symptoms similar to asthma. It can also lead to emphysema, with permanent destruction of the alveoli, and chronic bronchitis, a severe and prolonged cough, usually accompanied by excess mucus.


Every year, more than 3 million people worldwide die of COPD, according to the World Health Organization.

In theory, RAS cells should prevent, or at least mitigate, the effects of COPD by repairing damaged alveoli. However, researchers suspect that smoking can damage or even completely destroy new cells, leading to diseases such as COPD.

Medications often prescribed to patients with COPD are anti-inflammatories or oxygen therapy to relieve symptoms.

However, these are only temporary solutions and lack the ability to reverse lung damage. RAS cells could be used to improve treatments or even cure COPD, if researchers can properly harness their regenerative properties.

“We don’t really know if this finding could provide a potential cure for COPD,” Morrissey said.

“However, as COPD is a disease that we know very little about, any new insights should help us start thinking about new therapeutic approaches and the best treatmentsconcludes the researcher.

Alice Carqueja, ZAP //

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