The airway epithelium forms a critical line of defense between the lungs and the outside world. Multiple cell types in the airway epithelium function in a coordinated manner to prevent microbial penetration into the lungs while maintaining tolerance to normal airway flora. Alterations in the cellular composition of the airway epithelium are common in diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and may result in breakdown of this mucosal immunobarrier.
Our group utilizes a variety of model systems to understand why epithelial differentiation is altered in COPD and other airway diseases and whether these alterations affect host-microbial interactions in ways that contribute to disease. We are currently funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) and the Department of Defense.