The lung development study is a collaboration between the universities of Leicester, Bern and Nottingham. This study was funded by the Wellcome trust.
The aim of this study is to investigate the pattern of normal alveolar development in children and delineate the factors affecting normal alveolar development. We used a novel technique called hyperpolarized helium-3 magnetic resonance, developed by the university of Nottingham.
We analysed lung alveolar development using this technique and found that new lung alveoli continue to form until at least adolescence (It was previously believed that new alveoli stop forming after 3 years of age).
This is an exciting development, not least because it changes what was taught in textbooks for at least the last 40 years. The potential for new alveolar development beyond age of 3 years implies potential for repair much more than previously believed. However, this also means that the critical period where noxious influences could damage alveolar development is much longer than previously believed.
We are in the process of analysing the effect of preterm birth and other risk factors on alveolar development in children.
(download press release here)