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Group proves it's possible to grow new lung alveoli by growing new blood vessels

The good news is that medical advances in perinatal care have allowed us to save many more premature babies. The bad news is they're often at risk of developing bronchopulmonary dysplasia--a chronic lung disease caused by having to place the tiny infants on ventilators and oxygen-rich therapy for acute respiratory failure.

It's really a win-lose situation: the babies are saved but they pay the price with dramatically underdeveloped lungs--forcing them to spend their early days outside the womb fighting for every breath. And now, with many of these premature babies reaching their adolescent years, clinicians and researchers are also waiting to see whether longer term health problems are going to begin occurring.

"Right now we simply don't have any treatments," says Bernard Thbaud, a clinician-scientist and neonatologist in the Department of Pediatrics. "So, if we can't prevent it, we've started to think about how we might repair it."

Using animal models, Dr. Thbaud and a team of University of Alberta researchers have taken what they say is the first important step towards a treatment--in effect, growing new blood vessels and alveoli--the tiny air sacs where gas exchange occurs between the lungs and blood vessels--in tiny rat lungs.

The results of their work were recently published in Circulation, entitled Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Gene Therapy Increases Survival, Promotes Lung Angiogenesis, and Prevents Alveolar Damage in Hyperoxia-Induced Lung Injury: Evidence That Angiogenesis Participates in Alveolarization.

The results have caused a stir in the scientific community: In an accompanying editorial in the October 18 issue of the journal, Kurt Stenmark, a University of Colorado Divisions of Critical Care and Pulmonary Medicine researcher, said the studies "raise new possibilities for the treatment of infants with severe chronic lung disease. It seems possible that by augmenting or restoring vascular growth, overall lung
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Contact: Michael Robb
michael.robb@ualberta.ca
780-492-0647
University of Alberta
8-Nov-2005


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