STEM CELLS IN LUNG DEVELOPMENT, MAINTENANCE, AND DISEASE
Section of a small airway from a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) stained with antibodies against cytokeratin 5 (K5, green) and K14 (red). Relatively normal regions of pseudostratified mucociliary epithelium (right) are frequently seen in close proximity to regions of squamous metaplasia with expansion of the K14+/K5+ population of basal stem cells (left). We are interested in understanding how genetic and environmental signals modulate changes such as this and how these, in turn, affect airway homeostasis.
We investigate how the many epithelial and stromal cell types of our lungs are generated during development, maintained for a lifetime and regenerated following injury. To do this, we use in vivo and in vitro models to identify and test the progenitor capacity of putative stem cell populations. We posit that aberrant stem cell behaviors explain many features of common lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis. For this reason, we study the molecular mechanisms and environmental influences (i.e., niche) that regulate the division and differentiation of stem cells along various lineages. Our ultimate goal is to identify genetic, molecular and cellular therapies for the treatment of lung disease.