Naftali Kaminski, a researcher from Yale University who has been working towards better understanding and treating chronic lung diseases such as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), was recently awarded a $3 million grant by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to support the research of the molecular mechanisms behind the cellular anatomy observed in the lungs expressing the disease.
IPF is a progressive and fatal disease characterized by the scarring of the lungs, which causes an irreversible loss of the tissue’s ability to transport oxygen. Ultimately, IPF patients lose the ability to breathe. This pathology affects approximately 128,000 people in the United States alone and there is neither a specific known cause for the disease nor FDA-approved treatments aside from a lung transplant.
According to Kaminski, IPF has a number of well-established cellular traits such as abnormal alveolar cell proliferation, abundance of myofibroblast foci (specific muscle cells), and aberrant cellular remodeling processes. On top of this, Kaminski and other researchers have identified unique patterns in the nucleic acids’ expression in IPF’s affected cells as well as global differences in DNA methylation.
In a recent press release, Kaminski highlighted that until the scientific community starts investigating lung microenvironments and verifies whether they can distinguish changes within the IPF lung or not, they will not be able to understand its pathogenesis and what do they need to block in the cells in order to reverse the disease. The NIH grant will be used to investigate the genomic and protein profiles of some of critical regions of the IPF’s lungs. The group aims to develop a set of different genetic material profiles differentiated according to the lung region. These profiles are expected to be determined using techniques like next-generation sequencing, and laser capture microdissection-reduced representation bisulfite sequencing.
Kaminsky and the research group will also examine different cell populations obtained from IPF patients and compare their genetic traits with the same cells collected from individuals without IPF. The goal behind this is to understand the main differences in the genetic code between IPF patients and healthy individuals. The group added that the data collected during this project will be incorporated on a searchable, online database called IPFmap.
The NIH grant officially began on August 14 and will run until the end of May 2019.