Funding Pledge Allows Startup of Lung Disease Research Program in Louisville

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by Magdalena Kegel |

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With the help of a $1 million grant, scientists at the University of Louisville are starting up a new research program aiming to study lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The program, dubbed the “Gibbs Lung Research Program” (GSG), will focus specifically on the role of inflammation in lung disease, and intends to develop new techniques for keeping donated lungs — those unsuitable for transplants — alive in the lab long enough to study disease processes.

“Other than lung cancer, most people do not understand the extent of the problem of lung disease,” Laman Gray Jr., MD, executive and medical director of the Louisville Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, said in a press release.

“Inflammatory lung diseases are debilitating and affect millions of individuals. What is worse is the scientific world has limited capabilities for studying these diseases. This gift from the GSG III Foundation will allow us to develop expanded modeling opportunities with the goal of reducing human suffering from lung disease.” Gray added.

Researchers will have access to lungs that are donated for transplantation, but that are not suitable for use, which amounts to about 70% of all donated lungs. The program allowing researchers access to the organs is supported by the University of Louisville Hospital and Jewish Hospital.

Today, techniques exist for keeping lungs alive outside of the body for 12 hours. This is too short for research purposes, and the team now aims to develop techniques to prolong the survival of the organs.

Once they have succeeded in this first task, the team will use the lungs to study cell therapy methods to treat inflammation. The researchers also will develop better methods of breathing support through the study of biomechanics. Finally, the team will study gene activity changes in the about 40 different cell types that exist in the lungs, learning more about disease processes by comparing diseased and healthy lungs.

The pledge of the $1.05 million support came from the Louisville-based GSG III Foundation, and will run for five years.

“Given the number of people in Louisville and Kentucky who suffer from lung diseases, from COPD to cystic fibrosis to asthma, we are happy to support the community by creating a program that can ultimately lead to life-changing therapies for the people of Louisville and across the United States,” said George Gibbs, chair of the GSG III Foundation.