Turns Out Your Lungs are a Bioreactor for Your Cells?

It never ceases to amaze me that in 2017, we are still discovering significant things about the body. Last week a paper was published that discovered the lungs were acting as a living Petri dish for the cells that make your platelets. Before this discovery, doctors and scientists assumed that the cells that made your platelets lived only in the bone marrow. So meet your newly discovered lungs, which now handle respiration and act as a place where your cells come to grow up!

The researchers who authored the new study were trying to determine how platelets traveled around the body. They labeled the platelets and the megakaryocytes in mice with a green fluorescent protein and saw the usual stock in the bone marrow. What they did not expect to see was an extensive collection of megakaryocytes parked just outside the lungs. When they ran further experiments, they saw the cells traveling from the bone marrow to the lungs to spawn platelets, turning upside down our assumption that this happened in the bone marrow. Even stranger, when they transplanted healthy lungs into mice with bad bone marrow cells, megakaryocytes and other stem cells traveled from the lungs to repopulate the dying bone marrow!

The upshot? It is absolutely amazing that in 2017 we’re still discovering major things about the body that we did not know. This one continues to show what we have learned over the last decade about how flexible the body’s systems can be. For example, if your bone marrow has problems, your lungs can recuse the cell factory by sending in the stem cell calvary parked there! How much more is there to learn about the body? I bet there’s quite a bit!

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