ILD

Holy Grail: Understanding the progression of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Thursday, 8 Dec 2016


This month we speak to researcher Louise Organ from The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne about her work trying to understand what contributes to the progression of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

What’s the issue your research is trying to solve?

In particular we have been focusing on how to fibroblasts become dysregulated in IPF and how this contributes to the progression of the disease.

What have you discovered so far?

We are finding differences in the behaviour of fibroblasts isolated from the top and bottom lobes of IPF patients, including their growth and proliferation, phenotypic state i.e activation and  response to stimulants such MMP7.

What’s been your biggest hurdle?

Understanding where potential downstream effects in the fibroblasts are coming from and how this alters the response of the fibroblast. Sometimes  a particular stimulus as had a different effect on the fibroblast than expected, as opposed to a simple pro-fibrotic or pro-inflammatory response and this needs to be then further investigated as to what other potential cells or factors are involved.

What part of your findings excites you the most?

Being able to work with patient samples, and more directly connect it to the clinical setting. It helps remind me of the importance and reason why I do science and research.

How far is your work from impacting patient care?

I currently do my research based at the Lung Transplant department at the Alfred, so am able to work with patient samples. These are also longitudinal, so enable tracking of changes in a patient, and are really focused on finding things that will assist in a better understanding of patient progression and response, including to treatment.

If you could discover one thing in your research, what would it be? (e.g what’s your holy grail?)

At this stage, I would love to be able to help identify what changes in the lung, such as a clear biomarker, help determine a patient progression or response to treatment to better assist clinicians in determining the most effective course of action to take with patient care and treatment. Even just a better understanding of the mechanism that lead to differing clinical course and response to treatment in patients with IPF, so that again, we could potentially identify which cohort of patient will respond to certain treatments.

What’s on your bucket list?

Well in science, I really am hoping to take my career overseas to gain some experience that I can’t achieve here in Australia, but also to travel and explore the world a little more.

Louise Organ completed her PhD at the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science at The University of Melbourne in 2016, where she developed a large animal model for pulmonary fibrosis using sheep. This led her to develop an interest in pre-clinical research studies and understanding of predictors for patient progression and response to treatment strategies. She has since moved The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, to continue her research in a more clinical setting.

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