The lung has a remarkable capacity for regeneration, with a whole new segment being able to regenerate following injury or surgery. This regenerative capacity is due to the existence of adult stem cells in the lungs that can potentially be harnessed for patients with advanced lung fibrosis.
Organ regeneration occurs within a complex micro-environment (or 'niche'), unique to each organ, in which the adult stem cells communicate with each other and with the surrounding structural cells. Current research has focused primarily on the constituents of this ‘niche’. The new grant awarded to Prof Ling-Pei Ho by the MRC - UK Regenerative Medicine Platform will specifically explore the contribution of niche-resident immune cells to regeneration.
Despite a lot of work on the niche, little is known of how immune cells, in particular those that stably reside in the niche (“tissue-resident immune cells”), influence regeneration. We are interested in the role of these tissue-resident immune cells in promoting regeneration after injury - Prof Ho
Prof Ho will lead a network of collaborators from King's College London, Newcastle and the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge in this endeavour. The programme will take advantage of advanced technologies such as single cell RNA sequencing, mass cytometry, and gene editing. The team aims to build a detailed view of how the immune system impacts on the regeneration potential of the lungs following injury.
Ultimately, deeper understanding of this area will pave the way for development of new therapies to promote the regrowth of the lung in patients with lung fibrosis (specifically idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis).
Ling-Pei is an Associate Professor of Respiratory Immunology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, and a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine. Her research group is based at the MRC Human Immunology Unit.