Following a chlorine-related injury, a type of epithelial cells called basal cells initiate the repair and served as progenitor cells—early descendants of stem cells that can differentiate to form one or more cell types, according to researchers

This type of lung injury can occur when people are exposed to high levels of chlorine gas from events such as industrial accident, chemical spills, or household mishaps. Injuries can also be caused by other types of industrial chemicals including ammonia, methylisocyanate, and sulfur dioxide.

“Structural changes in the respiratory system are difficult to reverse, so understanding how cells function and multiply can help us develop treatments to prevent scarring and subsequent asthma-like breathing problems that affect for a life time some people who’ve experienced high levels of chlorine exposure,” said Gary Hoyle, PhD, School of Public Health and Information Sciences Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Louisville.