Editorial Article: Understanding Lung Disease Mechanisms Using Effective Cell Analysis

Learn how multi-channel flow cytometry is facilitating lung fibrosis research at the Medical University of South Carolina

14 Oct 2016

Image: Shutterstock Flow_Cytometry_123

Sarah Stephenson Ph.D, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr Lynn Schapp’s laboratory at the Medical University of South Carolina, told SelectScience® about her research and the key techniques and technologies utilized by the lab. The lab is focused on understanding disease mechanisms of lung fibrosis and the role of extracellular matrix producing cells in pulmonary fibrosis. 

Currently, characterization of lung pericytes (the contractile cells found around capillary and venule endothelial cells) has been limited. To address this, the Schapp lab are using multiple cell surface markers to identify, separate and functionally describe these cells.

Efficient cell separation

Having our own Guava instrument, with its small footprint and ease of use, allows us to readily analyze our cells.

Dr. Sarah Stephenson

Medical University of South Carolina

The ability to simultaneously distinguish between multiple markers is key to the research of Dr Schapp’s laboratory. The group use MilliporeSigma’s Guava easyCyte™ Flow Cytometer to effectively separate lung cells and select for the pericyte population. As Dr Stephenson comments, “The Guava has been an essential tool in this application.” Genetically modified mouse models that express cell-type specific fluorescent labels are used to track cell populations using flow cytometry. The Guava is particularly advantageous for analyzing the small population of pericytes, as low numbers of cells can be easily run and five colors can be analyzed simultaneously, for assessment of multiple population markers.  The lab is also examining the role of pericytes in lung disease using human-derived in vitro models. These cell cultures have to be monitored to ensure that the pericyte phenotype is maintained throughout culturing and experimental procedures. Again, the Guava is critical in assessing pericyte cell-specific markers of the culture samples. Dr Stephenson explains that, “Having our own Guava instrument, with its small footprint and ease of use, allows us to readily analyze our cells.”

Future perspectives

The team are now using the mouse models to analyze differential roles of the fluorescently labeled cell types, during different pulmonary conditions, to assess their role in disease processes.

Dr Stephenson’s project is investigating the role of HIV infection in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by assessing how different lung cell populations are affected by the virus.

Both of these projects are aimed at identifying potential therapeutic targets for further investigation. The Guava allows small cell population analysis, which will aid in determining whether therapies are having beneficial effects on disease progression, by assessing how lung cell populations are being modulated. 


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