Developmental Origins of Lung Disease Laboratory
The O’Reilly lab consists of an interactive group of senior scientists, graduate students, technicians, and summer undergraduate scholars interested in understanding how neonatal oxygen disrupts lung development and the host response to respiratory viral infections.
Premature exposure to oxygen is a major risk factor for neonatal lung disease and can cause bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a chronic form of lung disease frequently seen in preterm infants with very low birth weight. While better clinical care has reduced mortality, children born prematurely are at increased risk for reduced lung function, respiratory viral infections, pulmonary hypertension, and asthma. According to the NHLBI web site, the annual costs of treating infants with BPD in 2005 were $26.2 billion dollars. Hence, there is an urgent need to understand how oxygen supplementation permanently disrupts lung development and how these changes enhance susceptibility to respiratory infections.
Using the mouse as a model system, our studies are focused on defining how high oxygen at birth alters growth and differentiation of progenitor cells critical for lung development and host defense against infections. We also investigate how oxygen-induced damage activates molecular pathways that control whether cells live or die. We then collaborate with physicians who study health outcomes and treat children born prematurely. By integrating research findings in cells, mice, and humans, we hope to ultimately identify therapeutic opportunities for improving the long-term health of children born prematurely.