Pulmonary fibrosis is a severe chronic lung disease causing irreversible dysfunction of the organ. It is characterized by an abnormal repair process, causing uncontrolled deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) including collagen, excessive proliferation of fibroblasts, and destruction of the cellular architecture of the lung. Some features of fibrosis can be displayed ex vivo by using fresh lung tissue, so-called precision-cut lung slices (PCLS). PCLS contain epithelial cells, fibroblasts, smooth muscle cells, nerve fibers, and even immune cells such as antigen-presenting cells and T-cells. The tissue is fully viable. Cells in the tissue interact with each other, thereby reflecting the highly specialized function of the lung.
We use lung tissue of laboratory animals and human donors. The tissue is exposed ex vivo to a cocktail of growth factors. PCLS are subsequently examined for tissue responses at the protein and RNA levels and for changes in cellular phenotype. Features of fibrosis can thus be investigated – using tissue of different species including human. We found the tissue response to be highly comparable with the in-vivo response, and it can be used for prediction of organ responses.