Thiennu Vu, MD, PhD
My laboratory focuses on the following areas of study:
1) The role of the vasculature in organogenesis: We are interested in the molecular mechanisms of tissue vascularization and the role of the vasculature in tissue formation. Our hypothesis is that there are reciprocal inductive interactions between the tissue and its vasculature during organogenesis. This is strongly suggested in the lungs by the intimate relationship between airways and lung blood vessels, which is critical for normal lung function. Our goals are to identify the molecular and cellular mechanisms that mediate the cross talk between epithelium and mesenchyme to coordinate airway and vessel development during lung formation.
2) The development of pulmonary alveoli: Another area of interest of the lab is the development of the distal lung, namely, the formation of alveoli. These are key functional units of the lungs where gas exchange takes place, yet the regulation of alveolar morphogenesis is not well understood. Our hypothesis is that since the formation of alveoli occurs in a defined period, genes that regulate alveolar morphogenesis must be differentially expressed during periods of active and inactive alveolar formation. We are attempting to identify genes that regulate alveolar development by isolating genes differentially expressed between these stages. The role of candidate genes will then be tested using gain- and loss-of function studies both in vitro and in vivo.
3) The development and function of lung myofibroblasts: Lung myofibroblasts are interstitial smooth muscle-like cells that are essential for alveolar development. They are also implicated in the pathogenesis of many lung diseases including pulmonary fibrosis. The regulation of myofibroblast development and function is not well understood. We are interested in identifying the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate myofibroblasts in development and in disease.
4) The biology of lung progenitor and stem cells: As a rule the adult lungs do not regenerate and the response to lung injury in many cases is fibrosis. We are interested in identifying whether there are populations of progenitor or stem cells in the adult lungs that can be stimulated to repair and regenerate damaged lungs. We are also interested in identifying conditions that support the growth and differentiation of resident lung progenitor and stem cells or that induce bone marrow derived stem cells to populate and regenerate lung tissues.