Edward Crandall, Ph.D., M.D. Hasting Professor and Norris Chair
Department of Medicine

Dr. Crandall’s research team continues to expand its activities in molecular biology and cellular physiology. Their studies on basic lung pathobiology have relevance to many applied problems, including:

  • Air Pollution
  • Emphysema
  • Tuberculosis
  • AIDS
  • Lung Injury

Dr. Crandall’s laboratory utilizes purified lung cell populations grown under controlled conditions. The cells studied are the alveolar epithelial cells that line the 300 million air sacs in the adult lung. Using this model, they have shown that the sodium “pump” in the lung helps save lives by removing water from the air spaces, thereby allowing the normal uptake of oxygen and excretion of carbon dioxide, processes necessary for normal life. Their most important recent findings:

  • Keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) can markedly influence the function and differentiation of alveolar epithelial cells
  • Alveolar epithelial cells exhibit “plasticity” in their differentiation characteristics (i.e., they can go forward and backward as they transdifferentiate)
  • Differentiation of alveolar epithelial cells markedly affects the expression of specific genes in these cells
  • Stem cells may be capable of replacing alveolar epithelial cells during recovery from lung injury

Exploiting these observations, molecular techniques are currently being used to clone genes that are crucial to cell function and to regulation of differentiation. These findings hold promise for the development of new tools with which to treat lung injury using gene- and cell-based therapy approaches.