Macrophages: the overlooked target for pulmonary fibrosis and COPD

Carian Eline Boorsma

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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Macrophages are important immune cells in the lungs that are a first line of defense against inhaled threats. To fulfill this protective function, macrophages produce toxic molecules that neutralize inhaled threats but these can also cause damage to lung tissue. To prevent lasting damage, macrophages stimulate tissue repair and dampen inflammation. Improper control of these diverse functions is harmful to the lungs and contributes to diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung fibrosis.

In COPD, macrophages contribute to the degradation of the tissue that connects all lung cells, i.e. connective tissue, leading to loss of lung tissue. In lung fibrosis, on the other hand, macrophages stimulate the production of connective tissue, which makes the lungs stiff and impairs breathing. We have characterized and investigated lung macrophages and their functions from patients with COPD or lung fibrosis and compared them to macrophages of control individuals. This knowledge was subsequently used to test experimental macrophage function-modifying therapies for the possible treatment of COPD or lung fibrosis.

Our studies revealed that a system known to regulate the amount of connective tissue in bone is also present in lung tissue. This novel parallel between bone and lung will help us to design macrophage-modifying drugs that may be used for the treatment of COPD or lung fibrosis. In addition, this knowledge can contribute to the development of biomarkers that may be used to follow the course of these diseases.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Melgert, Barbro, Supervisor
  • Timens, Wim, Supervisor
  • Poelstra, Klaas, Supervisor
Award date2-Nov-2016
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-90-367-9328-5
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-9327-8
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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