Ana Ivonne Vazquez-Armendariz is appointed as Junior Group Leader at the Institute for Lung Health (ILH), Justus-Liebig University Giessen (JLU), Germany, where she leads the research group “Lung organoids and disease modelling”. She is a committee member of the international graduate program Molecular Biology and Medicine of the Lung (MBML), member of the excellence cluster Cardio-Pulmonary Institute (CPI) and the German Center for Lung Research (DZL).
Ana Ivonne Vazquez-Armendariz was born in Monterrey, Mexico. She obtained her bachelor degree on Clinical Biochemistry with honors from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon in Mexico in 2009. After graduation, she was awarded with a scholarship by the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) to pursue her postgraduate degree in Germany. Vazquez-Armendariz completed her master degree in Molecular Medicine at the University of Medicine Charité, Germany in 2012. Vazquez-Armendariz early research focused on Mycobacterial infections, including the study of the immune response of diabetic patients with tuberculosis and crosstalk between alveolar epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages during Mycobacterial Infection. In 2013, she moved to Giessen where she did her PhD and postdoctoral training at the JLU Giessen in the lab of Prof. Susanne Herold. During this period, her research work centered on the establishment and refinement of three-dimensional (3D) murine bronchioalveolar lung organoid cultures obtained from adult somatic stem cells for modeling of lung development and disease.
The Vazquez-Armendariz lab focuses on the use of 3D lung organoid systems from adult somatic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for modeling lung disease, particularly as a tool to characterize the molecular crosstalk between the epithelial-mesenchymal-myeloid unit during lung infection, injury and repair. The lab is interested in the elucidation of the cell-specific molecular signaling pathways involved in disease resolution, especially in the context of pathogen-induced lung injury.
Viral infections are a leading cause of substantial seasonal and pandemic morbidity and mortality worldwide. For instance, severe IAV infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract causing edema formation in the alveolar compartment leading to the development of pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and death due to respiratory failure. In order to regain homeostasis following IAV-induced injury, stem cell-mediated epithelial repair mechanisms are necessary. The term organoids refer to 3D structures derived from single stem cells that differentiate into organ-specific cells types that self-organize to form a structure resembling the cellular organization and functionality of the organ of origin. In this regard, 3D organoid culture systems have rapidly emerged as powerful tools to study stem cells potential and disease.
Figure 1: Overview of research topics addressed in Vazquez-Armendariz group
Our recently established a bronchoalveolar lung organoid (BALO) model is comprised of spatially organized bronchiolar and alveolar structures after co-culture of bronchioalveolar stem cells (BASCs) with defined subsets of lung-resident mesenchymal cells (rMC). Within these organoids, cells in the alveolar-like regions differentiate into mature AECII and AECI, whereas the airway-like regions contain basal, secretory and ciliated cells. In addition, distinct subsets of platelet-derived growth factor receptor-alpha (PDGFRα) high- and low expressing rMC, myofibroblasts and lipofibroblasts, are located within or in close proximity to alveolar-like structures. These mesenchymal cells are crucial components of the stem cell niche and fulfill defined tasks during epithelial cell regeneration after injury. In the context of injury, BALO epithelium infected with different strains of IAV supports viral replication and spread, and mounts an antiviral immune response. Additionally, microinjection of IAV into BALO airway-like structures recapitulates proximal-to-distal spread of the infection and causes substantial loss of AEC in the infected alveolar-like areas, thus, modeling this particular aspect of the in vivo situation of IAV pneumonia. Moreover, BALO can be supplemented with resident lung immune cells (e.g., alveolar macrophages), that engraft into the BALO and represent a further cellular compartment to study in the context of viral infection. Therefore, the professorship for “Lung organoids and disease modelling” aims to employ complex organoid models to model diseases that affect the bronchoalveolar compartment of the lung by focusing on the following aims:
Ana Ivonne Vazquez-Armendariz, Ph.D.
Group leader for lung organoids and disease modelling
Tutour of the international graduate program Molecular Biology and Medicine of the Lung (MBML)
Institute for lung health (ILH)
Cardio-Pulmonary Institute (CPI)
Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL)
Universities of Giessen and Marburg Lung Center (UGMLC)
Justus-Leibig University Giessen
Tel: +49 (0) 641 99 36402 (office)
Tel: +49 (0) 641 99 36406 (lab)
Fax: +49 (0) 641 99 36406
Marie Hessler, Anna-Lena Ament