Take a stroll through the park in the winter and you’ll see the barren branches of trees splitting off in all directions. Turn that picture upside down and you’ll have a good idea of what the airways of your lungs look like. The branches of your airways develop with the help of a protein called YAP. Researchers used mice to investigate exactly what YAP is up to. Blocking the activity of YAP in specific regions of the developing airways prevented new branches forming at these particular points. Further digging revealed that YAP controls division of the cells that form the tubes of the airways. So unsurprisingly, totally removing YAP in mouse lungs resulted in the complete failure of branch formation. Unlike healthy mouse lungs (left) with fully formed branched airways, mutant lungs (right) were made of clumps of cysts and didn’t function at all.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
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