Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 9th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

No Air
30 October 2017

No Air

The image on the left shows a pair of lungs from a mouse foetus, a couple of days before birth. If you look carefully you can see the network of delicate branching tubes that draw in air, sending it down to tiny sacs called alveoli. It’s here where vital oxygen moves into the bloodstream and waste carbon dioxide passes back out. But there's something very wrong with the lungs on the right, taken from an animal at the same age. The regular branches have failed to sprout, thanks to a fault in a gene called Ext1, so these mice can’t breathe properly after they’re born. Ext1 works together with a well-known gene called Sonic hedgehog, which sends signals in developing organs that help them grow into the correct structures. The discovery reveals more about how lungs grow, and what has gone wrong when human babies’ lungs don’t develop properly.

Written by Kat Arney

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