Just when we think we know everything about our body and functions of its organs, scientists appear with their new stunning discovery. This time we are talking about lungs. We know that we can’t breathe without them, but who would have thought that lungs help in blood production? Well, this is exactly what American researchers have discovered. Our lungs have a much more complex role than we thought. And definitely, our bodies still keep many secrets.

For years we thought that the only lung role is to facilitate respiration. Image credit: : MedicineNet, Inc.

Sophisticated view of the lungs

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have studied living mice lungs with a use of video microscopy. More precisely, they used an imaging technique called two-photon intravital imaging. In the cells were inserted green fluorescent protein (GFP), which allowed them to see how individual cells within the tiny blood vessels of a living mouse lung were behaving. This method revealed them unexpected things that occurred during the tracking time.

They noticed large production of the thrombocytes inside the lung tissue. Thrombocytes are blood components required for the clotting. Scientists previously thought that these cells reside in bone marrow. It turns out that more than a half thrombocytes are produced in the lungs. One of the researchers, Mark R. Looney said that this newly revealed functions definitely suggests a more sophisticated view of the lungs. They’re not just for respiration, but also a key partner in the formation of crucial aspects of the blood.

UC San Francisco scientists published video in which they showed the process of releasing thrombocytes:

Beside large production of thrombocytes, researchers have noticed a large amount of megakaryocyte progenitor cells that reside just outside the lung tissue. These cells were considered as hidden blood stem cells, which function is to give rise to red blood cells. This suddenly revealed functions, scientists explain that lungs indeed can be an ideal bioreactor due to mechanical force of the blood. They also not excluding the possibility of the existence of some molecular signaling that we don’t yet know about.

The researchers will now focus on the search for practical use of these functions. It is expected that these new findings have a major impact on diseases such as thrombocytopenia. Also, it can play a significant role for lungs transplantation.