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U receives $8.4M to seek treatment, cure for deadly lung disease IPF

University of Minnesota researchers in the Medical School’s Center for Lung Science and Health (CLSH) received an $8.4 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study a deadly chronic lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF.

IPF affects one out of every 10,000 people in the United States, usually striking people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. Doctors have not identified the cause of IPF, and currently, there is no treatment. Through this NIH-funded study, University researchers aim to better understand the disease and develop new therapies or even a cure.

Principal investigator Craig Henke, M.D., and an interdisciplinary research team, including pathology researchers from the University of Michigan, are working to uncover the underlying processes behind IPF by exploring the abnormal behavior of cells called fibroblasts, which cause lung tissue scarring in people with the disease.

Henke recently published findings related to this research in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. “We are studying what makes these cells abnormal. We hope to be able to reverse some of their abnormalities,” he says. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some inroads into developing treatments for patients.”

Henke says he and his team worked tirelessly for five years to plan for this project. More funding and increased awareness are needed to continue the momentum. “Additional money could help fund more technical support for our research projects, which would enable us to procure, process, and analyze a higher volume of cell and tissue specimens. We are currently limited in the number of tissue specimens [collected] and our ability to process and analyze them,” he says.

“[IPF] is a lethal disease,” he says. “Getting patients involved can help increase awareness of this devastating disease process, as well as foster research initiatives.”

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