Stem cells represent a long standing interest and the unifying factor of my entire scientific existence. I started as a PhD student by studying mouse epithelial stem cells in the laboratory of Prof. Barry Stripp at University of Pittsburgh and Duke University. I continued to study epithelial stem cell plasticity in the laboratory of Prof. Yann Barrandon at the Swiss Institute of Technology (EPF Lausanne). Finally, at University of Giessen in the laboratory of Prof. Andreas Guenther, I researched human lung stem cells and used that knowledge to understand the changes in idiopathic lung fibrosis.
This project was set to address the lack of knowledge of the human lung. Being backed by the UGMLC Biobank, we set up and implemented lung cell isolation, precision cut lung slices and epithelial/fibroblasts organoids. This enabled the flow cytometric and transcriptomic analysis of various cells in the normal and fibrotic lung. Sofisticated immunofluorescence analysis allowed the localization different cell types and decipher the functional relationship between cell types. We discovered novel cell surface markers for the alveolar epithelial cells, on of the stem cell populations that participate into lung repair.
Idiopathic lung fibrosis is a chronic, fatal lung disease, with very limited therapeutic options available at the moment. We do not fully understand why and how it happens, so a lot of our efforts went into that direction. Not only we improved our understanding of epithelial cell behavior in IPF, but we dove into novel therapies that would address the mechanistic and phenotypical changes we discovered. This was also the starting point of several academic and industrial collaborative projects.
Roxana Wasnick MD PhD
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