Lung-Brain Axis in Breathing Control

Determining lung sensor capacity to understand COPD hospitalizations

Full Project Name:The Lung-Brain Axis in Breathing Control in a Mouse Model of COPDPrincipal Investigator:Gary C Mouradian, PhD, PhysiologyAward Amount:$500,003
Award Date
February2022
Project Duration:60 months

Project Description Narrative:


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common lung disease that affects breathing and lung function. COPD exacerbations, or worsening of baseline symptoms, is the leading cause of ER visits and hospitalizations which are only increasing in Wisconsin. Such exacerbations unmask many breathing control problems in COPD.

While the lungs are the site for air to move in and out of the body, an area in the brain controls when and how we breathe. This area in the brain receives sensory inputs from many regions in the body, including nerve fibers in the lung. The brain region controlling breathing integrates the inputs and elicits the proper signals to our respiratory muscles to breathe. Impaired sensing or integration can result in insufficient breathing. Because many COPD patients retain CO2 in their blood independent of lung damage and have reduced CO2 sensing, COPD breathing problems arise from a combination of structural lung damage and breathing control problems. How COPD impairs breathing control and how this is impacted upon an exacerbation remains unknown and is the focus of this research project.

Through this award, investigators aim to better understand whether an imbalance of sensory input from specific pulmonary nerves to the brain regions that control breathing underlies breathing control problems in COPD and associated health complications.

Project Updates:


  • Completed the first cohort of mice demonstrating that the model of human emphysema not only causes similar lung damage but has major effects on neural control of breathing
  • Began testing if an antibody-based targeting approach for selective ablation of lung cells of interest alters breathing
  • Disseminated initial project findings through three published manuscripts

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