Recent advances into understanding some aspects of the structure and function of mammalian and avian lungs

J. N. Maina, J. B. West, S. Orgeig, N. J. Foot, C. B. Daniels, S. G. Kiama, P. Gehr, C. Mühlfeld, F. Blank, L. Müller, A. Lehmann, C. Brandenberger, B. Rothen-Rutishauser

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Recent findings are reported about certain aspects of the structure and function of the mammalian and avian lungs that include (a) the architecture of the air capillaries (ACs) and the blood capillaries (BCs); (b) the pulmonary blood capillary circulatory dynamics; (c) the adaptive molecular, cellular, biochemical, compositional, and developmental characteristics of the surfactant system; (d) the mechanisms of the translocation of fine and ultrafine particles across the airway epithelial barrier; and (e) the particle-cell interactions in the pulmonary airways. In the lung of the Muscovy duck Cairina moschata, at least, the ACs are rotund structures that are interconnected bynarrow cylindrical sections, while the BCs comprise segments that are almost as long as they are wide. In contrast to the mammalian pulmonary BCs, which are highly compliant, those of birds practically behave like rigid tubes. Diving pressure has been a very powerful directional selection force that has influenced phenotypic changes in surfactant composition and function in lungs of marine mammals. After nanosized particulates are deposited on the respiratory tract of healthy human subjects, some reach organs such as the brain with potentially serious health implications. Finally, in the mammalian lung, dendritic cells of the pulmonary airways are powerful agents in engulfing deposited particles, and in birds, macrophages and erythrocytes are ardent phagocytizing cellular agents. The morphology of the lung that allows it to perform different functions - including gas exchange, ventilation of the lung by being compliant, defense, and secretion of important pharmacological factors - is reflected in its "compromise design."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-807
Number of pages16
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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