With every breath we take, our lungs are under potential attack. To protect us from inhaled assaults, our lungs are lined by specialised epithelial cells and are surveilled by resident immune cells. Using stem cells, we create respiratory models of epithelial and immune cell interactions, which we are employing to better understand and find treatments for lung diseases.
Lung disease is a leading cause of mortality worldwide, yet few therapies exist to treat or prevent respiratory illnesses. Our research aims to understand how the cells in our lungs communicate in healthy lungs, and how interactions are altered in infections or chronic lung diseases. By illuminating cellular crosstalk, we plan to uncover new therapeutics for respiratory disorders.
reNEW Melbourne’s Immune Development Group Dr Rhiannon Werder’s team and collaborators at MCRI and the Royal Children’s Hospital have optimised cultures of stem cell derived lung epithelial cells with immune cells like macrophages. These macrophages can be differentiated from stem cells or directly collected from the lungs of patients, as in the image below.
Stem-cell derived alveolar epithelial cells (magenta) closely communicate with primary alveolar macrophages (cyan).
Dr Rhiannon Werder, Immune Development Group, MCRI.