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Lungs for Living Research Centre

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Airway Stem Cells and Tissue Repair Group

We study the biological mechanisms regulating lung cell homeostasis and aim to devise strategies for airway tissue repair.

Programme leader: Professor Sam Janes

Airway regeneration

The airways connect the lungs to the outside environment. This makes them vulnerable to numerous insults throughout a person’s lifetime. Maintaining the integrity of the epithelium lining the airways is essential for its multiple functions. The epithelium humidifies and warms inspired air, undertakes gaseous exchange and defends against pathogens.

A central focus of our research is to understand how healthy lung tissue is maintained and repaired in humans. In collaboration with groups at the UCL Institute for Child Health, the Francis Crick Institute and the University of Cambridge, we are investigating the properties and behaviour of airway epithelial stem and progenitor cells. We are particularly interested in defining the mechanisms that regulate cell fate decisions, and in addressing whether failure in the control of these processes may lead to lung cancer formation or other lung conditions. 

We have developed methods allowing us to expand in the laboratory cells isolated from biopsies of the airways taken when patients undergo a procedure called bronchoscopy. We combine these techniques with cutting-edge molecular biology approaches to investigate the role of candidate genes and signalling pathways in the regulation of airway epithelial cell self-renewal and differentiation.