Pulmonary Development and Lung Disease

Scientists in this area focus on pulmonary diseases of infancy and childhood and on pulmonary hypertension and fibrosis in adults.

Developmental biologists work to understand how highly branched airways form in intimate association with blood vessels to permit gas exchange. Together with physician-scientists, they also examine how the specialized cells lining the airway differentiate and become able to make the specialized substances that allow the lung to easily inflate and fend off infection.

Basic scientists collaborate with neonatologists caring for premature infants who have stiff or vulnerable lungs resulting from the lack of one of these substances. This research continues the extraordinary contributions of the CVRI investigators who developed surfactant therapy.

Recent evidence suggests that some pathological remodeling in pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension (diseases compromising the function of the lung and heart that usually manifest in adults) arises through processes related to those involved in the normal formation of heart and blood vessels in the embryo. Collaboration between developmental biologists and physicians working to understand these diseases will now be possible.

Understanding of adult lung diseases is also a major thrust. Basic and clinical researchers work closely to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of lung inflammation, mucus production, and vascular and airway tone and remodeling and how these processes go awry in adult respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, COPD, and pulmonary hypertension.