Making Blood Is An Unexpected New Function Of Lungs

Posted: Mar 24 2017, 7:18am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 24 2017, 10:21am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Making Blood is an Unexpected New Function of Lungs
Release of platelets in the lung vasculature. Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - San Francisco
  • Scientists have Discovered a New Function of Lungs

Scientists have discovered a new function of lungs. They also make blood besides aiding in respiration.

Via a video microscope, scientists studied the lungs of mice and found that they play a role in the making of blood. The lungs apparently made half the platelets. Platelets are responsible for the clotting of the blood.

This study proves that the lungs are far more complex organs than they were supposed to be by the biologists of the past. They not only play a key role in respiration but also aid in blood production.

To take this finding a step forward and apply this lesson in humans may be thought to be taking things too far by many. There is obviously a difference between mice and human beings.

Yet lab experiments on mice have led to research in human beings. Human diseases such as low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) haunts millions of people around the world.

It leads to excess bleeding which can be downright dangerous. The blood stem cells in the lungs may help in the proper functioning of lungs in case of transplants too.

This study, published in the journal Nature, was made possible thanks to the fine-tuning of a technique termed as two-photon intravital imaging. This technique allowed scientists to peer into the lungs of mice in an up close and personal manner.

The links between the immune system and circulating platelets was evident. A mouse type was engineered so that its platelets emitted bright green fluorescence. The researchers noticed a large amount of platelet-manufacturing cells termed megakaryocytes in the vascular bundles of the lungs.

Although these megakaryocytes had been noticed in the lungs before, they had been thought to mainly function in the bone marrow. The researchers decided to look deeper into this conundrum.

What this novel model suggested was that half the platelet production took place in the bone marrow and half of it took place in the lungs. One million megakaryocytes and blood stem cells were found situated outside the lung vasculature per mouse lung.

This was an exciting find. Questions about how these cells move back and forth between the lungs and bone marrow automatically arose from this research.

For this lung transplants had to be carried out. What was found was that the megakaryocytes in the lungs originate in the bone marrow. The fact that they travel all the way from the bone marrow to the lungs is fascinating to begin with.

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