Mechanisms of regulatory T-cell mediated endothelial repair following viral pneumonia in aged hosts

Project: Research project

Project Details


The broad objectives of this K08 Career Development proposal are two-fold: 1) to facilitate development of the necessary skills that will allow the candidate to achieve her long-term goal of becoming a successful physician-scientist focusing on determinants of recovery from viral pneumonia in aged hosts, and 2) to investigate the mechanisms that direct the adaptive immune system to orchestrate resolution of severe lung injury throughout the lifespan. The candidate and her mentors have designed a detailed training plan tailored to the candidate’s specific needs and goals. The plan includes a rigorous research component that will afford the PI new knowledge and research skills to better examine the links between a critical immune cell population and the endothelium during recovery from viral pneumonia. The proposal concerns viral pneumonia, specifically influenza A-induced lung injury, its clinical counterpart the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and how they both disproportionately affect the elderly population. Despite decades of dedicated research, there are only a few anti-viral therapies with limited efficacy to manage severe viral pneumonia. Regulatory T (Treg) cells have been shown to decrease inflammation and promote tissue repair in diverse murine models of lung injury. Treg cells also increase in the lungs of patients with ARDS, suggesting that they may play a role in the human adaptive immune response to lung injury. However, the specific mechanisms that cause Treg cells to execute their pro-repair program following lung injury remain unknown. Our preliminary data shows that the youthful reparative Treg cell program following influenza-induced lung injury is dominated by biologic processes linked to the development and repair of blood capillaries. This reparative program is lost in aged hosts in a cell-autonomous manner. Thus, we hypothesize that aging results in Treg cell-specific downregulation of important pro-angiogenic factor expression such as VEGFA, leading to impaired alveolar endothelial repair and recovery from viral pneumonia. The long-term hope of the proposal is to identify novel small molecule- and cell-based therapeutics to control inflammation and promote tissue repair in our increasingly older population. To test this hypothesis, we propose the following Specific Aims: 1) determine whether age-related alterations in the pro-endothelial repair function of Treg cells results from cell-autonomous or microenvironmentally-driven changes, 2) determine whether Treg cell-generated VEFGA is necessary and sufficient to restore the pro-endothelial repair function present in youth that is lost with aging, and 3) determine whether age-related VEGFA expression in alveolar Treg cells in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid is associated with 30-day mortality in patients with severe viral pneumonia. We will use standard techniques to assess severity of lung injury, endothelial repair, heterochronic (age mis-matched) adoptive Treg cell transfer, multiple transgenic murine strains for loss-of-function and gain-of-function experiments, flow cytometry, fluorescence-activated cell sorting and transcriptional profiling with RNA-sequencing as the primary methods to support the experimental design of this proposal.
Effective start/end date9/20/218/31/26


  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (5K08HL159356-03)


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