Lung disease third leading cause of death in the U.S.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Jan. 25, 2017) — The University of Louisville School of Medicine has received a $1.05 million pledge over five years from the GSG III Foundation, Inc. to create the Gibbs Lung Research Program at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute (CII).
The program will use established research and existing partnerships at CII to develop improved methods for studying diseased lungs and to explore new treatments for inflammatory lung disease.
Lung disease is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) alone affecting 13.5 million people. Inflammation of the lungs is often the first sign of more serious lung disease. However, scientists have limited methods for studying inflammation in lungs to better understand how and why it occurs and to develop treatments.
More than 70 percent of donor lungs are unusable for transplant. Support from University of Louisville Hospital and Jewish Hospital, both part of KentuckyOne Health, will enable the program’s investigators to obtain donated human lungs that cannot be used for transplant. Researchers plan to develop techniques to sustain these donor lungs over a longer period of time, allowing them to study the causes of inflammation as well as test potential therapies.
Goals for the program:
- Establish an ex vivo human lung model allowing lungs that are unsuitable for transplant to be brought to CII for research. Donated lungs will be enclosed in a sterile plastic dome, attached to a ventilator, pump and filters. Lungs will be maintained at normal body temperature and treated with a bloodless solution containing nutrients, proteins and oxygen.
- Develop methods for long-term support of the ex vivo lungs. Current processes enable lungs to be supported for up to 12 hours, which is long enough to transport them for transplant, but not long enough for meaningful study.
Once these techniques are in place, researchers in the program intend to use the research models explore areas of potential benefit, including:
- Cell therapy — explore the use of stem and regenerative cells isolated from a patient’s own fat tissue to treat lung inflammation.
- Mechanics — develop improved methods of respiratory support by studying the biomechanics of diseased lungs and the benefits of ex-vivo lung perfusion, a method of strengthening lungs outside the body.
- Gene expression — understand the course of dysfunction and dysregulation among the more than 40 different cell types within the lung and profile the functional changes that occur in diseased lungs and compare the gene expression to healthy lungs.