Mouse study reveals mechanical sensor that helps regulate breathing
C. Goridis/Nature 2016
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