Med study illuminates the molecular details of lung development

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine have produced a detailed molecular atlas of lung development, which is expected to be a fundamental reference in future studies of mammalian biology and of new treatments for diseases, such as COVID-19, that affect the lungs.

Diagram of lungs comprised of microscopic dots.

The researchers, who published their study in Science, generated a broad atlas of cell types in the developing and adult animal model lung by measuring the expression of genes in thousands of individual lung cells across the lifespan, covering multiple cell types and stages of maturation, from early development in the womb to adulthood. Analyzing all this data, they predicted thousands of signaling interactions among different cell types in the developing lung, confirmed many of these with functional experiments, and identified several cells and molecular regulators that are critically important for normal lung development.

“This study provides foundational information to guide our understanding of how lung function develops, and how the early postnatal period of life is a time of rapid adjustment in the lungs to optimize gas exchange,” says study senior investigator Edward Morrisey, the Robinette Foundation Professor of Medicine, a professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and director of the Penn-CHOP Lung Biology Institute at Penn Medicine.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.