Researchers at the University of Minnesota have, for the first time, coaxed umbilical cord blood stem cells to differentiate into a type of lung cell.

The cord blood cells differentiated into a type of lung cell called type II alveolar cells. These cells are responsible for secreting surfactant, a substance which allows the air sacs in the lungs to remain open, allowing air to move in and out of the sacs. The cells are also responsible for helping to repair the airway after injury.

The research paper is currently available online, and will be published in the Nov. 7, 2006, issue of the journal Cytotherapy.

Now the researchers will try to better characterize the cells, so that in the future, the cells could be used as a research tool to better understand lung development and disease. The cells may also be useful as a way to test potential new drugs.

Source: Medical News Today

The research was funded by BioE, Inc.

Contact: Sara E. Buss
University of Minnesota [www1.umn.edu/twincities/index.php]