Cell renewal is essential to maintain tissue homeostasis and repair throughout the life of multicellular organisms. These functions rely on the presence of stem cells that have the potential to differentiate into specialized cell types as well as the capacity for long-term self-renewal. Adult organs therefore need long-life reservoirs of somatic stem cells to ensure the turnover of the tissue. These stem cells are localized in specific areas known as “niches”, which provide the right environment for the viability and function of the stem cell.
The adult lung is an organ with slow turnover. There are different regions in the respiratory system, such as large airways and small distal bronchioles, which house different stem cell types that contribute to the maintenance and repair of lung tissue. Recently, a population of stem cells referred to as bronchioalveolar stem cells, has been identified at the bronchioalveolar duct junctions and has been shown to be important in maintaining bronchiolar Clara cells and alveolar cells of the distal lung. However, very little is known about the regulation of these lung stem/progenitor cells and the signals that induce their conversion into cancer cells.
We have now used a modified version of previous protocols to isolate and maintain in culture lung stem/progenitor cells.