How high resolution 3-dimensional imaging changes our understanding of postnatal lung development.
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During the last 10 + years biologically and clinically significant questions about postnatal lung development could be answered due to the application of modern cutting-edge microscopic and quantitative histological techniques. These are in particular synchrotron radiation based X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM), but also 3Helium Magnetic Resonance Imaging, as well as the stereological estimation of the number of alveoli and the length of the free septal edge. First, the most important new finding may be the following: alveolarization of the lung does not cease after the maturation of the alveolar microvasculature but continues until young adulthood and, even more important, maybe reactivated lifelong if needed to rescue structural damages of the lungs. Second, the pulmonary acinus represents the functional unit of the lung. Because the borders of the acini could not be detected in classical histological sections, any investigation of the acini requires 3-dimensional (imaging) methods. Based on SRXTM it was shown that in rat lungs the number of acini stays constant, meaning that their volume increases by a factor of ~ 11 after birth. The latter is very important for acinar ventilation and particle deposition.
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This article is a good source of information and a good way to become familiar with topics such as:
Angiogenesis;Lung development;Microvascular maturation;Pulmonary acinus;Pulmonary alveolarization
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