Lung Research Catches Air

Think about the difference between healthy- and unhealthy-looking lungs. Typically, diseased lungs are dark and scarred, while fit ones are pink. Melanie Königshoff, an MD/PhD and visiting professor of medicine at Pitt, wants to understand how diseased lungs transform so drastically.

For Königshoff ’s work on human translational pulmonary fibrosis (PF) models, Pitt’s School of Medicine received a multi-year, multi-million-dollar award from the Three Lakes Foundation to develop and refine a new model to better understand the progression of PF and to identify possible therapies.

PF is a chronic, degenerative lung disease that causes lung tissue to become damaged and scarred, making it difficult for oxygen to enter the bloodstream. Each year, 40,000 Americans die from PF, yet little is known about the mechanisms of the disease.

With this award, Pitt joins Yale as one of two centers included in the Three Lakes Consortium for Pulmonary Fibrosis, which aims to change how the disease is diagnosed and treated. Königshoff serves as the lead investigator of one of the consortium’s three working groups. That group will develop models to help expedite the discovery and validation of drugs to treat PF.

Königshoff notes that the pandemic has increased the need for a deeper understanding of—and more effective therapies for—chronic lung conditions generally. As more people recover from COVID-19, more people are living with the long-term effects of chronic lung disease.