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March 30, 2011

Researchers Uncover Enzyme Necessary for Lung Development

  • Eya1, a protein phosphatase, is a crucial regulator of embryonic lung epithelial stem cells, according to investigators at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The team determined that Eya1 controls cell polarity, cell fate, and self-renewal in mouse embryonic lung epithelial stem cells. They also showed that these stem cells are polarized with characteristic perpendicular cell divisions.

    David Warburton, M.D., director of developmental biology and regenerative medicine at The Saban Research Institute, and Ahmed El-Hashash, Ph.D., senior research scientist carrying out this study, released their findings in Development. The paper is titled “Eya1 controls cell polarity, spindle orientation, cell fate and Notch signaling in distal embryonic lung epithelium.”

    In vivo and in vitro experiments showed that interfering with Eya1 phosphatase function resulted in defective epithelial cell polarity and mitotic spindle orientation; disrupted Numb, a cell fate determinant; and inactivated Notch signaling, which is involved in cell segregation and division.

    "Identification of Eya1 mechanisms of regulating cell polarity, cell fate, and self-renewal will help to harness the regenerative potential of lung stem cells and to identify novel targets for the prevention or rescue therapy of fatal lung disease and for lung regeneration," remarks Dr. El-Hashash.

    "This will also help to develop stem cell-based therapy to treat patients with lung diseases. Solutions to the problems concerning regeneration of lung tissue for restoration of functional alveoli are at the cutting edge of identifying novel therapeutic options for lung diseases like COPD and fibrosis."

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