Understanding lung development and the signals provided by the embryonic environment are of great relevance to public health. A better knowledge of the cues that guide proper lung growth and the process that forms a highly branched, specialized structure will shed light on the causes of improper development. Congenital disorders, such as pulmonary hypoplasia, or insufficient lung growth, result when embryological processes go awry. Improper development may also predispose to adult conditions such as asthma. The goal of this project is to elucidate the dynamic processes involved in lung development and determine the dependence on neural stimulation for lung growth. The quail is an amniote with similar development to mammals, and it is much more accessible for genetic labeling experiments to study embryogenesis. Confocal and two-photon imaging of transgenic quail lungs that have multiple cellular structures labeled in different colors will be used to dynamically illustrate early lung development. The importance of neural stimulation for lung growth and branching will be measured by modulating neural inputs to the lungs and assessing growth and cell fate. These studies will contribute insight into the dynamics of lung development and what regulates the process. Such knowledge may lead to interventions to rescue congenital disorders, treat asthma, guide efforts to engineer replacement tissue, or stimulate lung repair following injury in adults.
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