Human pluripotent stem-cell-derived alveolar organoids for modeling pulmonary fibrosis and drug testing

Jung Hyun Kim, Geun Ho An, Ji Young Kim, Roya Rasaei, Woo Jin Kim, Xiong Jin, Dong Hun Woo, Choongseong Han, Se Ran Yang, Jong Hoon Kim, Seok Ho Hong

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39 Citations (Scopus)


Detailed understanding of the pathogenesis and development of effective therapies for pulmonary fibrosis (PF) have been hampered by lack of in vitro human models that recapitulate disease pathophysiology. In this study, we generated alveolar organoids (AOs) derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) for use as an PF model and for drug efficacy evaluation. Stepwise direct differentiation of hPSCs into alveolar epithelial cells by mimicking developmental cues in a temporally controlled manner was used to generate multicellular AOs. Derived AOs contained the expected spectrum of differentiated cells, including alveolar progenitors, type 1 and 2 alveolar epithelial cells and mesenchymal cells. Treatment with transforming growth factor (TGF-β1) induced fibrotic changes in AOs, offering a PF model for therapeutic evaluation of a structurally truncated form (NP-011) of milk fat globule-EGF factor 8 (MFG-E8) protein. The significant fibrogenic responses and collagen accumulation that were induced by treatment with TGF-β1 in these AOs were effectively ameliorated by treatment with NP-011 via suppression of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling. Furthermore, administration of NP-011 reversed bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis in mice also via ERK signaling suppression and collagen reduction. This anti-fibrotic effect mirrored that following Pirfenidone and Nintedanib administration. Furthermore, NP-011 interacted with macrophages, which accelerated the collagen uptake for eliminating accumulated collagen in fibrotic lung tissues. This study provides a robust in vitro human organoid system for modeling PF and assessing anti-fibrotic mechanisms of potential drugs and suggests that modified MGF-E8 protein has therapeutic potential for treating PF.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalCell Death Discovery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun

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© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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