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Unhappy Puppies

Gene fault identified in Airedale Terriers that provides insight into human lung disease

27 April 2020

Unhappy Puppies

Your lungs are made of millions of tiny ‘balloons’, encased in a single layer of cells rather than stretchy rubber. These microscopic spherical structures, called alveoli, are connected by a delicate network of branching tubes that allow air to penetrate all the way through the lungs. Because the alveoli are so fragile, they have to be kept lubricated with a mixture of fat and proteins (surfactant) to prevent the thin walls collapsing every time we breathe out. Rare genetic conditions can occasionally lead to babies being born with no surfactant in their lungs – often a fatal situation. A similar condition has now been found in Airedale Terrier puppies, causing abnormal structures in the lungs (top row) compared with their healthy litter mates (bottom). Knowing more about the gene responsible could not only help save babies born with this life-threatening condition but could enable breeders to prevent their dogs from suffering too.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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