UGMLC is partner of the German Centre for Lung Research
Research at UGMLC focuses on two project fields, yet these show multiple interactions: inflammatory (infectious/non-infectious) and hyper-proliferative (neoplastic/non-neoplastic) lung diseases. In the field of inflammatory diseases we focus on pneumonia, pneumogenic sepsis and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), bronchial asthma and COPD as "prototype" diseases, in the field of hyper-proliferative diseases we concentrate on lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, and lung fibrosis.
Although different gene-environment interactions (genetic predisposition and epigenetic regulation) and triggers (like infections, allergies, inhalative noxes) form the background of these diseases, the underlying molecular signaling pathways are nevertheless similar and are interrelated among each other and with those of organogenesis.
In the field of inflammatory diseases we study the association of microbial communities with health/disease, which will lead to new concept in diagnosis and therapy. Additionally, we will study the lung specific response of the immune system (sensor, effector, and repair systems) in pneumonia with the aim of developing new intervention strategies from our results.
In the prototype disease "pneumogenic sepsis and direct ARDS" we will study the disruption of the pulmonary barrier by pathogens and their products, the role of pulmonary response to inflammation in the pathogenesis of alveolar edema, and the molecular signatures, again with the aim of affecting the re-establishment of alveolar barrier function. In this project field we will additionally study two disease of utmost socio-economic relevance: asthma and COPD. Here, too, we will try to reach better therapeutic strategies by more detailed understanding of disease processes (like initaiation and perpetuation, role of cell biological networks, neuronal dysfunction, common and differential signaling pathways). Among others we will pay special regard the novel hypothesis of chronic inflammatory lung diseases like COPD being not primarily a disease of the lung but a systemic inflammatory disease, thus calling for a therapeutic concept involving the entire body.
In the field of hyperproliferative lung diseases we will study the development of lung cancer, the most common form of deathly cancer, on the other hand we will also study non cancerous lung diseases, that are nonetheless based on dysregulation of cell proliferation, like pulmonary hypertension and lung fibrosis. Apart from asking how this uncontrolled growth of cancer cells is initiated, we will also aks what factors may lead to the formation of metastases and how metastatic cells interact with the resident tumor cells and the micro-environment in the tissue. Moreover we will address the problem of therapy resistance of advanced tumors as well as options for better therapy and prevention. In pulmonary hypertension, a disease of the lung vascular bed leading to narrowing of the vessels via cell growth in the vessel walls and thus increased blood pressure in the lung circulation, and which cannot be cured to date, we will study the genetic and molecular background, not only to be able to treat the symptoms, bus to reverse the process of vessel remodeling and thus, in the long run, to be able to cure the disease.
The development of lung fibrosis, a disease where collagen and connective tissue is deposited among the alveoli making them die off, thus leading to impaired gas exchange, is hardly elucidated in detail. It can be traced back to inflammatory reactions, inhaled noxae (asbestos, airborne particles) or have unknown causes. Once we are able to understand how this disease is caused, we may be able to follow new pathways to improved therapeutic concepts.
At the universities in Giessen and Marburg and at the Max-Planck-Institute in Bad Nauheim several groups are already working in the fields described above. The joining of their expertise and the establishment of new research groups within the UGMLC will speed up progress and add new aspects to these topics.