Dissecting fibroblast-macrophage-T-regulatory cell communication in the fibrotic niche
Idiopathic pulmonary (lung) fibrosis (IPF) affects 5 million people with a mean survival time of 2-3 years after diagnosis. In lung fibrosis, connective tissue fibroblasts excessively produce and stiffen collagen matrix. The resulting scar destroys the delicate lung architecture, decreases lung compliance and gas exchange, ultimately rendering patients unable to breathe. The only effective treatment for IPF patients is a lung transplant. Typical of lung fibrosis is the chronic co-existence of fibroblasts, innate immune macrophages, and adaptive immune T-cells. Hinz has shown that cell-cell contacts establish proximity between macrophages and fibroblasts, which allows efficient exchange of signaling factors. This study used elaborate co-culture systems that are difficult to analyze with conventional methods in particular, in industry-scale drug screening. Here, the Hinz lab will team with up with Phenomic AI who developed an artificial intelligence analysis platform that is able to interpret even the most complex experimental outcomes. This combination will enable to use triple cell-cultures for anti-fibrosis drug screening and help to identify novel therapeutic targets in IPF.