The following review focuses on the normal development of the lung from conception to birth. The defined periods of lung development-Embryonic, Pseudoglandular, Canalicular, Saccular and Alveolar-will be explored in detail in relation to gestational age. Cellular differentiation, formation of the conducting airways and respiratory zone and development of the alveoli will be reviewed. Pulmonary vascular development will also be examined within these periods to relate the formation of the blood-air barrier to the lungs for their essential function of gas exchange after birth. The development of the surfactant and cortisol systems will also be discussed as these need to be mature before the lungs are able to take on their role of respiration following birth. It is clear that premature birth interrupts normal lung development so the effect of preterm birth on lung development will be examined and the respiratory consequences of very preterm birth will be briefly explored.
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