Evidence for adult lung growth in humans

N Engl J Med. 2012 Jul 19;367(3):244-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1203983.


A 33-year-old woman underwent a right-sided pneumonectomy in 1995 for treatment of a lung adenocarcinoma. As expected, there was an abrupt decrease in her vital capacity, but unexpectedly, it increased during the subsequent 15 years. Serial computed tomographic (CT) scans showed progressive enlargement of the remaining left lung and an increase in tissue density. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the use of hyperpolarized helium-3 gas showed overall acinar-airway dimensions that were consistent with an increase in the alveolar number rather than the enlargement of existing alveoli, but the alveoli in the growing lung were shallower than in normal lungs. This study provides evidence that new lung growth can occur in an adult human.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pneumonectomy*
  • Regeneration*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed