Our group is interested in lung repair and regeneration with special focus on pulmonary fibrosis. Lung fibrosis is a chronic fatal disease, the exact pathophysiology of this disease is still not known and there are no promising treatments available so far.
Impaired alveolar epithelial repair after lung injury results in pulmonary fibrosis; we aim to understand the molecular mechanisms that modulate impaired alveolar epithelial repair on the cellular and molecular level. Endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress) and mitochondrial DNA depletion have immerged as important mechanisms in fibrotic diseases, therefore we are currently investigating the role of these processes in the lung resulting in pulmonary fibrosis after injury
The adult lung has a very limited ability to repair and regenerate and therefore it is an ideal organ to benefit from regenerative medicine approaches. The two main strategies implied in our laboratory are cell-targeted gene therapy and stem cell therapy.
Cell targeted gene therapy: Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a pleotropic growth factor and is important factor for lung development and repair. We have successfully demonstrated the use of a non-viral method of electroporation mediated, cell-targeted gene transfer of HGF specifically to alveolar type II epithelial cells as a promising therapeutic approach to pulmonary fibrosis. Currently we are focused on modifying this method for an appropiate clinical translation.
Cell therapy: Stem cells and their products have emerged as promising tools for repair and regeneration. Bone marrow derived stromal cells (BMSC) have shown promising results; however it has been shown that with age they lose their plasticity. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSc) offer a promising novel option. Our laboratory is focused on using iPSc and their secreted mediators as a potential treatment option for pulmonary fibrosis.
Currently we are focusing on:
Characterization of molecular pathways regulating alveolar epithelial repair in vitro and in vivo
Identification of underlying defects in sub cellular organelles, mainly in lung epithelial cells
Use of novel in vivo models for cellular/tissue regeneration using gene therapy and stem cells products
We are involved in national and international multicenter studies focusing on novel treatment strategies for patients suffering from pulmonary fibrosis and/or pulmonary hypertension.