Study Provides New Insights Into Lung Repair Mechanisms After Damage, Fibrosis

The lung is constantly subjected to harmful exposures, such as inhaled toxic substances, particulate matter, autoimmune reactions, and viral or bacterial infections that cause injury to the airway and alveolar epithelium cells. In regenerative processes, these injured cells must be replaced as soon as possible. In a recent study published in the journal EMBO Molecular Systems Biology, a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry and the Helmholtz Zentrum München has gained a deeper understanding of the dynamic remodeling during lung tissue repair.

The regenerative processes that lead to lung injury healing remain poorly understood. Because there is a lack of causal treatments for lung diseases, these healing mechanisms are vital to be explored. In the study titled “Time‐ and compartment‐resolved proteome profiling of the extracellular niche in lung injury and repair,” a team of researchers led by Dr. Matthias Mann, Director at the MPI of Biochemistry, and Prof. Oliver Eickelberg, Chairman of the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and University Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, used novel mass spectrometry techniques and was able to profile and quantify for the first time, the dynamic changes in the structure of the lung tissue during different stages of lung regeneration.

Evidence has shown that when the lung alveoli are injured, several proteins are secreted into the extracellular space, forming the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM are essential for lung tissue healing, and triggers various mechanisms such as the activation of certain stem cells, so the lung tissue returns to its normal state.

In their research, the team was able to quantify and identify in the lung proteome, more than 8,000 proteins throughout the different phases of tissue repair. “The information we have gained about the dynamic changes in ECM composition and its interactions with various secreted growth factor proteins enables us to develop new hypotheses for the activation of stem cells in the lung,” explained Dr. Herbert Schiller, first author of the study according to a recent news release.

According to the researchers, the study findings provide a solid basis for more research in the development of lung diseases. “These novel mass spectrometry techniques enable us to analyze variations in the type and abundance of proteins in patients with lung fibrosis and healthy individuals and will therefore likely lead to new approaches for the treatment of chronic lung diseases in general and lung fibrosis in particular,” Eickelberg predicts.

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