Respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in the industrialized world. Consequently, the trachea, lungs, and cardiopulmonary vasculature have been the focus of extensive investigations. Recent studies have provided new information about the mechanisms driving lung development and differentiation. However, there is still much to learn about the ability of the adult respiratory system to undergo repair and to replace cells lost in response to injury and disease. This Review highlights the multiple stem/progenitor populations in different regions of the adult lung, the plasticity of their behavior in injury models, and molecular pathways that support homeostasis and repair.
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