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Stem Cells International
Volume 2015, Article ID 728307, 11 pages
Review Article

Diversity of Epithelial Stem Cell Types in Adult Lung

1Center of Medical Laboratory of the General Hospital, Ningxia Medical University, Yinchuan 750004, China
2Department of Thoracic Surgery of the General Hospital, Ningxia Medical University, Yinchuan 750004, China
3Human Stem Cell Institute of the General Hospital, Ningxia Medical University, Yinchuan 750004, China
4Department of Clinical Oncology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kowloon, Hong Kong
5Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Education for Conservation and Utilization of Special Biological Resources in Western China, Ningxia University, Yinchuan 750021, China

Received 27 December 2014; Revised 13 February 2015; Accepted 13 February 2015

Academic Editor: Armand Keating

Copyright © 2015 Feng Li et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Lung is a complex organ lined with epithelial cells. In order to maintain its homeostasis and normal functions following injuries caused by varied extraneous and intraneous insults, such as inhaled environmental pollutants and overwhelming inflammatory responses, the respiratory epithelium normally undergoes regenerations by the proliferation and differentiation of region-specific epithelial stem/progenitor cells that resided in distinct niches along the airway tree. The importance of local epithelial stem cell niches in the specification of lung stem/progenitor cells has been recently identified. Studies using cell differentiating and lineage tracing assays, in vitro and/or ex vivo models, and genetically engineered mice have suggested that these local epithelial stem/progenitor cells within spatially distinct regions along the pulmonary tree contribute to the injury repair of epithelium adjacent to their respective niches. This paper reviews recent findings in the identification and isolation of region-specific epithelial stem/progenitor cells and local niches along the airway tree and the potential link of epithelial stem cells for the development of lung cancer.