We are identifying new, critical biology underlying airway diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other fibrotic lung diseases. To do this, we have built a platform, which leverages a model system, Dictyostelium discoideum, to identify relevant genes for protecting cells from toxins, such as cigarette smoke. We find that these genes are also protective in primary human airway epithelial cells and protect several key functions such as airway surface hydration and ciliary function. The unexpected biology that we have uncovered is paving the way for small molecule screens, which we hope will facilitate the discovery of new therapeutic strategies for these currently incurable lung diseases.
Check out our Kliment et al. 2021 publication where we describe the identification of adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT) as a protector from cigarette smoke in Dictyostelium and in human primary airway epithelia. We also discovered that smokers and patients with COPD have reduced ANT expression. This work was featured in Scientific American.