Lung disease has a high mortality rate, and for now, the only treatment is a lung transplant. Even the procedure itself has adverse side-effects. According to studies conducted by the US National Library of Medicine, “By 1998, 1,273 lung cancer deaths and 772 COPD deaths occurred. Lung cancer mortality rates were approximately two times higher than COPD mortality rates among race and ethnic groups. Cox regression analysis revealed that low education (Relative Risk (RR) = 1.77, significant, p=0.01) and low family income (RR = 1.50, significant, p=0.01) are associated with lung cancer and COPD mortality controlling for age, race/ethnicity, gender and smoking status.” That is why this news about a Cellular blueprint for lungs is so important.
We didn’t have the resolution to look at individual cells and how they behave. It’s like we have moved the resolution on cell analysis from looking at the night sky with the naked eye to a child’s telescope, to an observatory and, now, the Hubble telescope.Naftali Kaminski, M.D.
This blueprint will also aid in finding new molecular objects for therapies in the treatment of lung diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. A discovery in how lung cells communicate as well as observing how that network of communication is conserved across the species allows a more in-depth study and engineering of other organs in the future.
There are 40 different cell types in the lung, Kaminski explained, and hundreds of thousands of cells altogether, each containing tens of thousands of genes. Since cell contents can change quickly, as in the introduction of white blood cells in response to injury, it’s critical, he said, to have a blueprint that shows which cell mechanisms belong to normal functioning.
“There are active bioengineering efforts in our lab growing lung tissue in glass jars with mechanical and chemical stimuli [intended to] coax them into organs,” Raredon said. “We can compare our engineered constructs to this blueprint, which shows certain signals present in all species that we want to reconstitute.”
“Single-cell connectomic analysis of adult mammalian lung” appeared in the Dec. 4 edition of Science Advances. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and by an unrestricted gift from Three Lakes Partners. Yale contributors include Daniel Boffa, professor of thoracic surgery; Yuval Kluger, professor of pathology; Andre Levchenko, director of the Yale Systems Biology Institute and the John C. Malone Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Taylor Sterling Adams, research assistant; Yasir Suhail, postdoctoral fellow; Jonas Schupp, postdoctoral associate; Nir Neumark, Ph.D. student; Katherine Leiby, M.D./Ph.D. student; Allison Greaney, graduate student; Yifan Yuan, postdoctoral associate; Corey Horien, M.D./Ph.D. student; George Linderman, M.D./Ph.D. student; and Alexander Engler, Ph.D. student.