Your Lungs Keep Growing Well After Childhood

Lungs continue to grow after childhood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As we get older, many parts of our body continue to grow and develop. Scientists thought the lungs were fully developed early in childhood but it turns out the lungs continue to grow into adulthood.

A new study shows that the lungs continue to grow new air sacs into adulthood. Air sacs start developing around the sixth month of pregnancy. It was traditionally believed that the lungs were fully developed by the age of three and that the air sacs only expanded after that.

This new understanding about how the lungs grow an impact future studies and help develop new treatments.

"Ask your doctor about breathing test - they are easy and can save your life."

It was previously accepted that the number of air sacs in the lungs did not increase after the age of three. While the number did not increase, the airs sacs continued to develop and expand into adulthood, allowing for increased breathing capacity.

A new study by the University of Leicester shows that this may not be the case. Researches studied 100 healthy individuals, whose age ranged from seven to 21, using a range of breathing tests. Children can hold approximately one liter of air in the lungs compared to four liters in an adult.

Scientists explained this difference by stating that air sacs in adults were larger. According to the study, there was no real difference in air sac size between children and adults. Dr. Caroline Beardsmore, a senior lecturer at the University of Leicester, concluded that there must be new air sacs must be growing in adult lungs.

For researchers, this new understanding can affect lung injury studies. There could be new ways to help repair and restore lung function after injuries. Scientists can also study environmental effects, such as pollution, on the number of air sacs being grown.

For now, the research is helping to redefine the traditional understanding of lung growth. Knowing how the lungs grow and develop will impact future research and means there may still be more to know about the lungs.

There are many serious diseases that affect the lungs and learning that new air sacs are grown into adulthood can lead to better treatments for these diseases.

This study was published in the December edition of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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Review Date: 
December 8, 2011
Last Updated:
December 8, 2011