MELBOURNE: It's a breakthrough which could lead to lifesaving solutions for premature babies with breathing problems -- cholesterol is "an essential ingredient" in healthy lung function.
Researchers at the University of South Australia have found cholesterol plays a major role in surfactant which is a complex mixture of fats and proteins lining alveoli that keeps our lungs saturated and humidified.
"The surfactant forms a lining on top of the water-based fluid in the alveoli, which stops the alveoli from sticking together as the lungs inflate and deflate.
"In premature babies, the surfactant system and the lungs aren't fully developed, which results in breathing difficulties. Without surfactant their lungs are incredibly stiff and the babies aren't capable of expanding their lungs, which leads to collapse.
"Our evolutionary studies show that no matter how simple or complex, every lung that inflates and deflates has surfactant and there are differences in its composition," lead researcher Prof Sandra Orgeig said.
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