KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — One’s lungs can actually repair the damage from smoking upon quitting the habit, a surprising study revealed.
Cancerous mutations caused by smoking had been considered to be permanent and to continue even after quitting, but new findings published in Nature showed that the few cells escaping damage could repair the lungs, BBC reported.
This effect was observed even in patients who smoked a pack daily for 40 years before stopping the habit.
Most cells taken by the study from a smoker’s airways had been mutated by the thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke, containing up to 10,000 genetic alterations, but a small number of cells escaped untouched.
After one quits smoking, it is these cells that regenerate and replace the damaged ones in the lungs. Up to 40 per cent of the cells in those who quit smoking reportedly looked exactly like the cells from those who never lit up.
“We were totally unprepared for the finding,” Dr Peter Campbell from the Sanger Institute told BBC News.
“There is a population of cells that, kind of, magically replenish the lining of the airways. One of the remarkable things was patients who had quit, even after 40 years of smoking, had regeneration of cells that were totally unscathed by the exposure to tobacco.”
According to BBC, the study looked at major airways, rather than alveoli, the small structures where oxygen moves from the air breathed into the lungs, so scientists must still examine how much of the lungs are repaired.