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Stem Cell Fate in the Mammalian Lung From first breath to last gasp, our lungs are an essential organ. Lung architecture is complex and must be maintained throughout life. If things go wrong with lung maintenance, the resulting changes can contribute to multiple different lung diseases. Many of these are degenerative diseases – such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – and are associated with ageing. Consequently, they are increasing in prevalence worldwide. In common with other organs, the lung is maintained by the function of tissue-specific stem cells which must act on demand to replace old or dying cells. Specifically, the stem cells must do two things: Emma Rawlins Emma Rawlins is an MRC Career Development Fellow. She obtained her PhD in developmental biology from the University of Edinburgh where she worked with Prof. Andrew Jarman. Her postdoctoral training was at Duke University Medical School, North Carolina, USA in the lab of Prof. Brigid Hogan. This was where she first worked on mouse lung stem cells. She was one of the first people to use modern genetic techniques to study mouse lung stem cells and has been instrumental in identifying several stem cell populations.

1. produce new daughter cells when required to do so: either too few or too many cells can be disastrous for lung function. 2. produce the correct types of daughter cells: changes to cell identity can also disrupt lung function. The Rawlins lab investigates the mechanisms which control stem cell behaviour in the lungs. We are most interested in how the stem cells in the normal adult lung know which type of daughter cell they need to make and when. Our approach is to use the power of mouse genetics to understand the control of lung stem cell behaviour at the single cell level. This allows individual cells to be analyzed quantitatively in vivo, or by live-imaging in organ culture systems. In collaboration with Ben Simons, we are currently characterizing a new stem cell population in the airways of the adult mouse lung which is already committed to produce a specific type of daughter cell.

Lineage-labelled bronchiolar cells (green) in the growing mouse lung. These cells are descended from an specific lung stem cell population.

Funding Key Publications MRC Wellcome Trust March of Dimes

Rawlins EL, Clark CP, Xue Y and Hogan BLM (2009). The Id2 distal tip lung epithelium contains individual multipotent embryonic progenitor cells. Development 136, 3741-3745 PMID: 19855016 Rawlins EL, Okubo T, Xue Y, Brass DM, Auten RL, Hasegawa H, Wang F and Hogan BLM (2009). The role of Scgb1a1+ Clara cells in the longterm maintenance and repair of lung airway, but not alveolar, epithelium. Cell Stem Cell 4, 525-534 PMID: 19497281

Group Members

Rawlins EL and Hogan BLM (2008). Ciliated epithelial cell lifespan in the mouse trachea and lung. American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cell Molecular Physiology 295, L231-234 PMID: 18487354

Gayan Balasooriya Christoph Budjan Jo-Anne Johnson Usua L. Garay Marko Nikolic Chandika Rao


Cambridge Stem Cell Institute Brochure 2012  
Cambridge Stem Cell Institute Brochure 2012