Jichao Chen, Ph.D.

Jichao Chen, Ph.D.

Institution: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Project: Origin and function of a novel cell population

Grant(s): Innovation Award

The mammalian gas exchange surface is enveloped by a capillary network, the failure of which is seen in both pediatric and adult lung diseases, such as BPD (bronchopulmonary dysplasia) and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). This capillary network is commonly believed to be homogeneous; we, however, have obtained evidence for a novel population of endothelial cells in the mouse lung. The proposed study aims to elucidate this novel endothelial population. If successful, it will not only open a new avenue of research on endothelial cell heterogeneity, but also provide new mechanistic understanding of alveologenesis and help combat the associated pulmonary diseases.


Endothelial cells line the blood vessels in the lungs. Using state-of-the-art genomics, mouse genetics, and 3-D imaging, we have discovered a new endothelial cell population within the lung capillaries, thus showing that the lung vasculature is not homogeneous as previously thought. These cells, which express a high level of an enzyme called Carbonic anhydrase 4 (Car4), are named Car4 endothelial cells. These findings shed light on alveologenesis, the final step of lung maturation, which subdivides the alveolar region of the lung into smaller units called alveoli. This work has been recently published in Developmental Cell.

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