Organization of collagen in the human pulmonary alveolar wall



The purpose of this study was to determine the organization of collagen in the wall of the human pulmonary alveolus. Samples of human lung obtained at surgery were processed for light and electron microscopy. Light microscopy confirmed the general findings of Orsos ('36): there were 3 common fibers called primary, secondary, tertiary in this study in order of their increasing size. Primary fibers (called “pericapillary” by Orsos) formed a continuous mesh in the alveolar wall and were often confluent within the intercapillary regions of the wall (“knötenpunkten,” or nodes, Orsos). The tortuous secondary fibers (“circulatory fibers,” Orsos) passed frequently across the thickness of the alveolar wall and were closely applied to capillary walls. Tertiary fibers (“respiratory fibers,” Orsos) were continuous with the alveolar ostia and formed the supportive struts of the alveolar wall as they crossed the wall in a more direct course than the serpiginous secondary fibers.

Electron microscopy (serial sections and stereo pairs) showed that the primary fibers inserted near the edge of an intercapillary region, where they were attached to the endothelial or epithelial basal lamina directly or by a smaller fiber or microfibril resembling the fibrous component of elastin or oxytalan. Primary fibers passed through a typical intercapillary region while describing a helix or a portion thereof. Secondary fibers were more coarse than primary, and both secondary and tertiary fibers resembled woven ropes.