A scalable 3D tissue culture pipeline to enable functional therapeutic screening for pulmonary fibrosis

Katherine A. Cummins, Peter B. Bitterman, Daniel J. Tschumperlin, David K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a lethal lung disease targeting the alveolar gas exchange apparatus, leading to death by asphyxiation. IPF progresses on a tissue scale through aberrant matrix remodeling, enhanced cell contraction, and subsequent microenvironment densification. Although two pharmaceuticals modestly slow progression, IPF patient survival averages less than 5 years. A major impediment to therapeutic development is the lack of high-fidelity models that account for the fibrotic microenvironment. Our goal is to create a three-dimensional (3D) platform to enable lung fibrosis studies and recapitulate IPF tissue features. We demonstrate that normal lung fibroblasts encapsulated in collagen microspheres can be pushed toward an activated phenotype, treated with FDA-approved therapies, and their fibrotic function quantified using imaging assays (extracellular matrix deposition, contractile protein expression, and microenvironment compaction). Highlighting the system's utility, we further show that fibroblasts isolated from IPF patient lungs maintain fibrotic phenotypes and manifest reduced fibrotic function when treated with epigenetic modifiers. Our system enables enhanced screening due to improved predictability and fidelity compared to 2D systems combined with superior tractability and throughput compared to 3D systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number046102
JournalAPL Bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

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