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BOSTON - Researchers at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University (BU) today announced findings from a new research study, published in Cell Stem Cell, detailing the development of a method for generating human alveolar epithelial type I cells (AT1s) from pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The ability to recreate these cells in an iPSC-based model will allow researchers to analyze the historically difficult to isolate cells in greater detail, helping to further the understanding of human lung regeneration and may ultimately expedite progress in treatment and therapeutic options for people living with pulmonary diseases.

Pulmonary diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cause significant mortality and morbidity worldwide, and many pulmonary diseases lack sufficient treatment options. As science and medicine have progressed, researchers have identified a clear need for additional knowledge about lung cells to help improve patient health. 

The results of this study provide an in vitro model of human AT1 cells, which line the vast majority of the gas exchange barrier of the distal lung, and are a potential source of human AT1s to develop regenerative therapies. The new model will help researchers of pulmonary diseases deepen their understanding of lung regeneration, specifically after an infection or exposure to toxins, as well as diseases of the alveolar epithelium such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and pulmonary fibrosis. 

“Uncovering the ability to generate human alveolar epithelial type I cells (AT1s), and similar cell types, from pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), has expanded our knowledge of biological processes and can significantly improve disease understanding and management,” said Darrell Kotton, MD, Director, Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) of Boston University and Boston Medical Center.

This new study also furthers the CReM’s goal of generating every human lung cell type from iPSCs as a pathway to improving disease management and provides a source of cells for future transplantation to regenerate damaged lung tissues in vivo. 

“We know that the respiratory system can respond to injury and regenerate lost or damaged cells, but the depth of that knowledge is currently limited,” said Claire Burgess, PhD, Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine, who is the study’s first author. “We anticipate this protocol will be used to further understand how AT1 cells react to toxins, bacteria, and viral exposures, and will be used in basic developmental studies, disease modeling, and potential engineering of future regenerative therapies."

The full study is published in Cell Stem Cell and can be located here.

About Boston Medical Center

Boston Medical Center models a new kind of excellence in healthcare, where innovative and equitable care empowers all patients to thrive. We combine world-class clinicians and cutting-edge treatments with compassionate, quality care that extends beyond our walls. As an award-winning health equity leader, our diverse clinicians and staff interrogate racial disparities in care and partner with our community to dismantle systemic inequities. And as a national leader in research and the teaching affiliate for Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, we’re driving the future of care.

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