Many lung diseases (IPF, COPD) are characterized by marked heterogeneity at the tissue level. Unfortunately, most of the tools we currently employ to understand lung disease are unable to elucidate the mechanisms that result in regional heterogeneity. Clinical studies and animal models, while invaluable, generally assume that all lung tissue is similarly affected based on the presence or absence of diagnostic criteria for disease (for clinical studies) or presence or absence of a genetic modification or exposure of interest (for animal models). In vitro studies are limited by an inability to recapitulate the complex interactions between multiple cell types, the extracellular matrix, and the local tissue microbiome.
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