In two separate studies publish in Nature in Aug 2018, scientists have discovered previously unidentified cell types in lungs. These cell types, named by scientists as “Pulmonary Ionocytes”, appears to be primary source of CFTR gene activity, suggesting major involvement with Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease caused by mutations in CFTR gene, which increases buildup of mucus in lungs and digestive tract. It results in persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe overtime. Currently, the treatment only involves medicines to reduces the symptoms to the disease but there is no cure yet.

There have been many attempts to develop cure for Cystic Fibrosis targeting CFTR genes, but it was not yet fully understood why the therapies were not affecting. Now the answer may have been found.

The two studies were published by one group at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR). The other group was led by HMS researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital and scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Using Single Cell Sequencing technology, complete atlas of respiratory cells was attempted to made. During this research, the scientists found out new types of cells which showed CFTR activity more than any other cell type in the body. However, these new cells make up for only 1% of airway cells.

This research could open a completely different strategy for researchers trying to develop a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. New Gene Therapy research could be pursued targeting these cells which are main centers for CFTR activity.

The news is adapted from Harvard Medical School News.

More details about original research can be found on Novartis NIBR and Mass General

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