Abstract Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is characterized by progressive scarring of the lung parenchyma, leading to respiratory failure and death. High resolution computed tomography of the chest is often diagnostic for IPF, but its cost and the risk of radiation exposure limit its use as a screening tool even in patients at high risk for the disease. In patients with lung cancer, investigators have detected transcriptional signatures of disease in airway and nasal epithelial cells distal to the site of disease that are clinically useful as screening tools. Here we assessed the feasibility of distinguishing patients with IPF from age-matched controls through transcriptomic profiling of nasal epithelial curettage samples, which can be safely and repeatedly sampled over the course of a patient’s illness. We recruited 10 patients with IPF and 23 age-matched healthy control subjects. Using 3′ messenger RNA sequencing (mRNA-seq), we identified 224 differentially expressed genes, most of which were upregulated in patients with IPF compared with controls. Pathway enrichment analysis revealed upregulation of pathways related to immune response and inflammatory signaling in IPF patients compared with controls. These findings support the concept that fibrosis is associated with upregulation of inflammatory pathways across the respiratory epithelium with possible implications for disease detection and pathobiology.
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