Endogenous lung regeneration: potential and limitations

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Dec 15;186(12):1213-9. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201207-1151PP. Epub 2012 Sep 20.


The exploration of the endogenous regenerative potential of the diseased adult human lung represents an innovative and exciting task. In this pulmonary perspective, we discuss three major components essential for endogenous lung repair and regeneration: epithelial progenitor populations, developmental signaling pathways that regulate their reparative and regenerative potential, and the surrounding extracellular matrix in the human diseased lung. Over the past years, several distinct epithelial progenitor populations have been discovered within the lung, all of which most likely respond to different injuries by varying degrees. It has become evident that several progenitor populations are mutually involved in maintenance and repair, which is highly regulated by developmental pathways, such as Wnt or Notch signaling. Third, endogenous progenitor cells and developmental signaling pathways act in close spatiotemporal synergy with the extracellular matrix. These three components define and refine the highly dynamic microenvironment of the lung, which is altered in a disease-specific fashion in several chronic lung diseases. The search for the right mixture to induce efficient and controlled repair and regeneration of the diseased lung is ongoing and will open completely novel avenues for the treatment of patients with chronic lung disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Lung Diseases / metabolism
  • Lung Diseases / therapy*
  • Mice
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / physiology*