Pulmonary pathologies are one of the most common causes of death in human populations. Lung malfunction can be caused by many different conditions from preterm delivery (developmental lung abnormalities) and hereditary diseases (cystic fibrosis) to chronic inflammatory processes, malignant transformations in the respiratory system (lung cancer), ionizing radiation (radiotherapy) and certain antibiotics (chemotherapy) and so on.
Preterm birth occurs in approximately 10% of human pregnancies between 20 and 37 weeks of gestation. The resulting developmental lung abnormalities are the most common complication in extreme premature infants accounting for more than 70% of perinatal mortality. In spite of recent advances in perinatal care, rates of pulmonary dysplasia have not dramatically changed over recent years.
Cystic fibrosis is the most common autosomal recessive disease. It is caused by mutations in the gene encoding the cystic fibrosis transmenbrane conductance regulator –CFTR-. At three months of age, most babies with cystic fibrosis have abnormalities detectable by chest-computed tomography. The average lifespan of cystic fibrosis patients is around 40 years and obviously cystic fibrosis is also the target of novel medications that may alleviate the pulmonary symptoms.