Jessy Deshane, Ph.D., associate professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, has been interested in chronic lung disease and environmental exposure for years.

“I have focused my research program on asthma and lung cancer, both are impacted by these exposures. To delineate the underlying molecular mechanisms and spatial resolution of immune responses in these diseases, we developed perfused three dimensional human lung tissue models that recapitulate the tissue architecture and the microenvironment, Deshane says.

As the COVID pandemic evolved, her team was able to quickly adapt these models for human COVID-19 infection. They were also able to quickly investigate SARS CoV-2 immune responses and candidate therapeutics to attenuate SARS-CoV-2 infection and reinvigorate exhausted T cells.

The team predicted that the models would be of high utility for evaluation of fibrotic events that result from long term chronic inflammation associated with COVID-19.

“As optimal animal models are still being developed for SARS CoV-2 infection, our perfused human tissue models have opened doors for investigations of long term consequences of chronic inflammation due to COVID-19,” Deshane says.

The three dimensional perfusion human lung tissue models can be used to model SARS CoV-2 infection and to evaluate anti-viral therapeutics and local immune responses.

The team has submitted more grant applications, and is currently evaluating novel lines of investigations of sphingolipid metabolism that are influenced by COVID-19.