Preclinical validation and imaging of Wnt-induced repair in human 3D lung tissue cultures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterised by a progressive loss of lung tissue. Inducing repair processes within the adult diseased lung is of major interest and Wnt/β- catenin signalling represents a promising target for lung repair. However, the translation of novel therapeutic targets from model systems into clinical use remains a major challenge. We generated murine and patient-derived three-dimensional (3D) ex vivo lung tissue cultures (LTCs), which closely mimic the 3D lung microenvironment in vivo. Using two well-known glycogen synthase kinase-3β inhibitors, lithium chloride (LiCl) and CHIR 99021 (CT), we determined Wnt/β-catenin-driven lung repair processes in high spatiotemporal resolution using quantitative PCR, Western blotting, ELISA, (immuno)histological assessment, and four-dimensional confocal live tissue imaging. Viable 3D-LTCs exhibited preserved lung structure and function for up to 5 days. We demonstrate successful Wnt/β-catenin signal activation in murine and patient-derived 3D-LTCs from COPD patients. Wnt/β-catenin signalling led to increased alveolar epithelial cell marker expression, decreased matrix metalloproteinase-12 expression, as well as altered macrophage activity and elastin remodelling. Importantly, induction of surfactant protein C significantly correlated with disease stage (per cent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 s) in patient-derived 3D-LTCs. Patient-derived 3D-LTCs represent a valuable tool to analyse potential targets and drugs for lung repair. Enhanced Wnt/β-catenin signalling attenuated pathological features of patient-derived COPD 3D-LTCs.


External organisations
  • German Center for Lung Research (DZL)
  • Asklepios Clinics
  • Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1150-1166
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Oct 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes