Mechanisms and consequences of aberrant repair in the lung

The World Health Organization estimates that between 100 million and 150 million people worldwide suffer from Asthma. The disease places a huge burden on the health-care system, with economic costs greater than of TB and HIV/AIDS combined. While less common than Asthma, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating disease since there is no cure or effective therapy. In North America and Canada there are over 200,000 patients with this disease. Of these more than 40,000 die annually. This is the same number of people that die from breast cancer annually. Currently we think that the pathology of both diseases follows a pathway similar to normal wound healing, although there is progression of the disease because the normal «braking» mechanisms do not function properly. As a consequence, too much connective tissue is produced. My research focuses on the cells that line the airways, called the epithelium and the cells that produce the connective tissue, called fibroblasts. Epithelial cells are important since they are the first cell in the lung that interacts with the air and are therefore most likely to be injured. We think that if the epithelium does not repair properly, it will signal the fibroblasts to continue making connective tissue inappropriately.