Picture of Jochen Bodem, Rinu Sivarajan and Maria Steinke. Photo: Bernadette Ganz

Targeting respiratory diseases

Maria Steinke, Rinu Sivarajan and Jochen Bodem investigate the impact of COPD and the flu in human airway tissue models

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the flu are major contributors to annual mortality rates. However, it is worth considering if they favor other respiratory diseases and viral infections. Recent findings from lung samples of COPD patients exhibited enhanced production of molecules linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Furthermore, the influenza A virus, responsible for causing the flu, also seems to stimulate the expression of these molecules. These discoveries highlight the potential interplay between COPD, the flu, and increased vulnerability to other viral infections and respiratory illnesses.

In their project based at the Single-Cell Center Würzburg, Rinu Sivarajan from the Chair of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, Maria Steinke from the Fraunhofer Translational Center for Regenerative Therapies, and Jochen Bodem from the Institute for Virology and Immunobiology are investigating how COPD and influenza A infection impact gene expression related to coronavirus entry and the respiratory innate immune response specific to cell types at the single-cell level.

In cooperation with Florian Erhard and Tom Gräfenhan from the University of Würzburg, they aim to uncover the altered gene expression during infection and the gene signatures observed in infected tissue models that mirror those seen in other respiratory diseases. Understanding these changes at a deeper level can open new avenues for addressing COPD, the flu, and related complications.