Growth Factor Protects Lungs Against PF-like Damage and Triggers Stem Cells in an Animal Study

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A new study shed light on a growth factor that might protect lung cells in pulmonary fibrosis. Researchers from Shanghai, China, found that fibroblast growth factor-10 (FGF-10) prevented damage in rat lung cells, and may also direct the development of lung stem cells.

The study, Fibroblast Growth Factor-10 (FGF-10) Mobilizes Lung-resident Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Protects Against Acute Lung Injury, appeared on Feb. 12, 2016, in the journal Scientific Reports.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease characterized by thickening and scarring of lung tissue, and difficulty in breathing. FGF-10 is a growth factor that has been shown to protect lung cells from death. However, the cellular mechanism underlying this action is unknown. FGF-10 could potentially induce the production of stem cells, including in the lungs.

Researchers, led by Lin Tong of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Rui Jin Hospital, Shanghai, studied lung cells taken from animals that had been given FGF-10 through the trachea. They examined the cells for stem cell markers, known as CD29, CD73, CD90, and CD105. They also looked for markers indicating that the cells were fully developed, and not stem cells, including CD34 and CD45.

The investigators identified more lung stem cells after the animals were treated with FGF-10. The cells were able to turn into a variety of types, including osteocytes, adipocytes, and chondrocytes. FGF-10 could possibly protect lung cells by increasing the production of lung stem cells, capable of transforming into a different cell types.

“Direct delivery of FGF-10 in the lungs of rats led to an increase of [lung stem cells] in the treated lungs, suggesting that the protective effect of FGF-10 might be mediated, in part, by the mobilization of [lung stem cells]  in lungs,” they wrote.

When lung stem cells were delivered into the lungs of rats that had received injury via a drug known as lipopolysaccharide,  inflammation was prevented. Inflammation is an overactive immune response that can harm tissue and may damage the lungs in pulmonary fibrosis.

Overall, the researchers showed that lung stem cells could be induced via infusion of FGF-10, and that these cells might prevent lung damage, such as the fibrosis. The work has only been conducted in animals so far, but it could provide the groundwork for future studies examining lung stem cell transplantation in humans.