The discovery of surfactant

Blog13_Luciano-Maccheroni_La-Crisi

04 Dec The discovery of surfactant

Up until the end of the 1960s, 10,000 newborns died inexplicably in the first two-three days after birth in the United States alone, including Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the son of JFK. Around that time, John A. Clements from the University of California and Mary Ellen Avery from Johns Hopkins University discovered that surfactant, a substance consisting of lipids and, to a lesser extent, proteins, helped prevent the pulmonary alveoli from collapsing due to its ability to reduce the surface tension of water. A lack of surfactant results in the collapse of the alveoli after expiration.

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