Many of the body's tissues once thought to be only locally regenerative may, in fact, be actively replaced by circulating stem cells after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Localization of donor-derived cells ("chimerism") has recently been shown to occur in the lungs of mice after either hematopoietic stem cell transplantation or infusion of cultured marrow.
To determine whether tissues of the human lung might be similarly derived from extrapulmonary sources, scientists examined lung specimens from a retrospective cohort of female allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients who received stem cells from male donors.
Tissue samples from three such patients who had undergone diagnostic lung biopsy or autopsy were examined.
Slides were stained by immunohistochemistry for cytokeratin (epithelium) and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule, CD31 (PECAM) (endothelium) and were imaged and then examined by fluorescent in situ hybridization analysis to identify male cells.
The resulting overlapping in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry images were examined for the presence and, if present, cell type of donor cells in the lung.
They found significant rates of epithelial (2.5-8.0%) and endothelial (37.5-42.3%) chimerism.
These results suggest that significant chimerism of the human lung may follow hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and that adult human stem cells could potentially play a therapeutic role in treatment of the damaged lung