Press Release

26.10.2018

BfR funds for Claudia Staab-Weijnitz

PD Dr. Claudia Staab-Weijnitz receives funding from Federal Institute for Risk Assessment for the development of novel in vitro methods to study lung regeneration.

Claudia Staab-Weijnitz; ILBD/CPC Helmholtz Zentrum München

PD Dr. Claudia Staab-Weijnitz, Head of the Core Unit „Matrix Genotyping“ at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease (ILBD) and Scientific Director of  CPC Research School, has received funding in the amount of about 200.000 € from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Together with a Ph.D. student, Staab-Weijnitz aims to use the funding to establish alternative methods for the study of lung regeneration.

Chronic lung diseases, e.g. chronic-obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer, are according to the World Health Organization (WHO) among the leading causes of death worldwide, and the trend is rising. For many of these diseases, there is no cure and current therapy merely provides relief of symptoms or decelerates disease progression. The changes of lung structure that come with a chronic lung disease are typically progressive and irreversible - they ultimately result in permanent organ failure. A restoration of normal tissue architecture would be desirable, but the mechanisms of adult lung regeneration are poorly understood. Our knowledge so far largely stems from studies in in model organisms, where frequently used injury models are based on initial acute injury of the respiratory epithelium by exposition to chemicals which cause a more or less cell type-specific depletion of bronchial epithelial cells.

In a proof-of-concept approach, Staab-Weijnitz wants to develop in vitro methods for the analysis of lung injury and regeneration in a human cell-derived organotypic system, i.e. a culture system that allows the development of structures very similar to the human respiratory system. The planned work focuses on bronchial epithelial cells, as these cells are primarily challenged by inhaled insults and play a key role in the development of chronic lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). In COPD, bronchial epithelial cells initiate and control immune and inflammatory responses by releasing proinflammatory mediators. For IPF, genome-wide association studies strongly suggest a causal role for the bronchial epithelium in disease aetiology, but the underlying mechanisms are unknown. Therefore, the isolation and organotypic culture of primary human bronchial epithelial cells has been established at the ILBD in previous studies (see publications below) and is now part of the routine culture efforts of the CPC bioArchive.

Relevant publications:

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep08163

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep29952

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