Jayaraj Rajagopal, MD
Harvard Medical School
The lung is a vertebrate invention that allowed the early tetrapods to leave the water and colonize the land. Oxygen is the essential actor in aerobic metabolism and the lung's cardinal function is to mediate the efficient transfer of oxygen from the atmosphere to the circulatory system. Given the lung's essential function, diseases of the lung are often life-threatening or incapacitating.
We seek to isolate and culture lung stem cells and to understand their role in normal lung epithelial homeostasis and in regeneration after tissue injury. Lung stem cells purified from a donor animal or obtained from embryonic stem cell culture will provide novel reagents for generating in vitro models of human lung disease. We are also exploring the in vivo engraftment of lung epithelial stem cells as a basis for regenerative medical therapies. Our inquiries into the mechanisms underlying embryonic lung development and adult lung epithelial regeneration serve as a framework within which we seek to understand how the reactivation and distortion of normal developmental processes results in human lung disease.
In a parallel effort, we study the murine trachea as a robust model of organ regeneration. We seek to answer longstanding historical questions in regeneration biology using this highly reproducible, rapid experimental model.