Force-detecting protein senses when lungs fill with air | Science News


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Force-detecting protein senses when lungs fill with air

Mouse study reveals mechanical sensor that helps regulate breathing

1:01pm, December 21, 2016
mouse lung nerve endings

BREATHLESS  Nerve endings in the lungs send signals — triggered by force-detecting proteins — to the brain and spinal cord that help regulate breathing. When mice lack these proteins in particular clusters of nerves, the mice either die within 24 hours of birth (blue, purple) or have breathing problems as adults (red).

Scientists investigating what keeps lungs from overinflating can quit holding their breath.


Experiments in mice have identified a protein that senses when the lungs are full of air. This protein helps regulate breathing in adult mice and gets breathing going in newborn mice, researchers report online December 21 in Nature.


If the protein plays a similar role in people — and a few studies suggest that it does — exploring its activity could help explain disorders such as sleep apnea or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


“These are extremely well done, very elegant studies,” says neonatologist Shabih Hasan of the University of Calgary in Canada, a specialist in breathing disorders in newborns. Researchers knew that feedback between the lungs and brain maintains normal breathing. But “this research give us an understanding

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