Deborah Winter, Ph.D.
Funded by the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest
Using Cells from Lung Transplants to Better Understand Pulmonary Fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis , or scarring of the lungs, is a leading cause of death in people with the autoimmune disorder systemic sclerosis (SSc). Current treatments are only marginally effective. Recent work has suggested that immune cells in the lung called macrophages play a key role in the development of pulmonary fibrosis in SSc patients. We will compare the network of genes expressed in macrophages from the healthy lungs of donors to the fibrotic (scarred) lungs of transplant recipients. We will also examine the variability in these macrophage gene networks among these patients. Identifying the molecular regulators and environmental signals that reprogram lung macrophages will offer a better understanding of pulmonary fibrosis and will likely lead to specific targets for therapy.
Update: So far we have established a framework for processing tissue derived from biopsy of the donor lung (which represents our control) and the diseased explanted lung (which comes from the patient receiving the transplant). Using these tissue samples, we have worked on developing protocols for isolating cells from the specific macrophage populations of interest and preparing them for genomic analysis. Our preliminary data supports the role of lung macrophages in pulmonary fibrosis.