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$2.5 Million to Study Lung Repair and Regeneration

January 24, 2012, Volume 58, No. 19

MorriseyThe Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania is one of six institutions to be named part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Lung Repair and Regeneration Consortium (LRRC). Each of the institutions will receive $2.5 million over five years. Dr. Edward Morrisey, professor of medicine and cell and developmental biology and scientific director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, will lead the Penn consortium.

Lung disease is a leading cause of death and disease in the world, and diseases of the lung such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are on the rise. The consortium will bring together investigators whose expertise spans basic science through translational medicine to study lung repair and tissue regeneration to fight lung diseases.

Asthma and COPD are chronic lung diseases that affect the bronchiolar airways of the lung and are leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Both diseases are thought to involve a chronic injury-repair cycle that leads to the eventual breakdown of normal airway structure and function.

The Penn grant will study the epigenetic control of lung repair and regeneration with a focus on chromatin remodeling factors and microRNA pathways. Epigenetics involves chemical modifications to DNA and its supporting proteins that affect gene expression.

Co-investigators at Penn, including Dr. Jonathan Epstein, chair, department of cell and developmental biology; Dr. Rey A. Panettieri, Jr., professor of medicine; and Dr. Paul Gadue, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, will work with Dr. Morrisey to explore the role of pathways involving the enzyme histone deacetylase and microRNAs, both of which are part of the epigenetics molecular machinery.

To apply regenerative medicine techniques to lung disease, the team aims to identify and characterize cell types that affect lung repair and regeneration and to learn how to maintain, grow, and differentiate the cells into mature and functioning airway epithelial cells. The team will also focus on using small molecule mediators of histone deacetylase activity and microRNAs to develop new therapies to alleviate the unmet needs of patients with asthma and COPD, as well as other airway diseases.

Almanac - January 24, 2012, Volume 58, No. 19