Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and generally fatal disease that causes scarring of the lungs and therefore an inability to breathe. Its true prevalence is unknown, as it may go unrecognized for many years, but it is generally thought to affect more than 200,000 people in the USA and is five times more common than cystic fibrosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The mortality from the disease is very high with about two-thirds of patients dying within five years of diagnosis. The cause and reasons for progression of disease are unknown, but are likely complex and multifactorial, involving genetic predisposition and environmental exposures. A small percentage of cases run in families.
Our lack of therapies and understanding of IPF may in large part be due to the fact that there are no good models of the disease. We have developed a disease model of IPF using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology, where fibrosis occurs in the dish. This is the first model of human fibrosis in a dish to be described for any fibrotic disease. This model is novel as it is patient derived and patient specific and can be used to better understand the heterogeneity of the disease and to test drugs that individual patients might respond to. Here we plan to increase our understanding of the biology of IPF by altering the microenvironment of the IPF disease model in a dish. This will lead to the development of novel therapeutic strategies for IPF.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating fatal lung disease that usually occurs in the 7th decade of life. The disease causes scarring of the lungs that make it impossible to breath. The prevalence of IPF is on the rise and expected to double in the next 20 years as the U.S. population continues to age. The prevalence worldwide in the population that is greater than 65 years of age is predicted to be around 125 IPF cases per 100,000 people. California, the most populous state, is also the state with the largest number of people 65 years of age and over (3.6 million people in the year 2000) and therefore the prevalence of IPF in the USA is highest in California with over 5,000 cases.
By virtue of the severity of this disease, patients will almost always progress to end stage lung failure and the only therapy available is a lung transplant. In addition to the suffering and disability that IPF causes, the costs associated with caring for patients with IPF, including lung transplant costs, are extremely large. For example a single lung transplant costs roughly $400,000 and this doesn’t include all the follow up care needed post-transplant or any complications.
Improving our understanding of and identifying therapies for IPF will therefore have a major impact on patients in California with IPF. Firstly, it will reduce much pain and suffering and secondly it will reduce costs and free up donor lungs, that are in short supply, for other end stage lung disease patients.