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Pulmonary neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs) are small, densely innervated clusters of
neuroendocrine cells located in the airway epithelium of all air-breathing vertebrates,
including humans. A variety of proposed possible functions of these NEBs in the regulation
of physiological events in the lungs have led to many controversies in the past decades.
Until recently, these structures were believed to detect local intrapulmonary oxygen
levels. Using an ex vivo lung slice model and a combined laser microdissection and
RT-PCR approach, we were able to provide proof of the capability of these cells to
sense both mechanical and chemical changes in the airways. Apart from being airway
sensors, we have evidence to believe that these neuroendocrine cellular aggregates
harbor an epithelial stem cell niche, which might disclose the possible link of these
cells with the development of small cell lung carcinoma. In addition, the availability
of the GAD67-GFP transgenic mouse model further opens new perspectives for unraveling
the distinct roles of these cells under normal and inflammatory conditions.
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