Of flies, mice and men: a systematic approach to understanding the early life origins of chronic lung disease


Despite intensive research efforts, the aetiology of the majority of chronic lung diseases (CLD) in both, children and adults, remains elusive. Current therapeutic options are limited, providing only symptomatic relief, rather than treating the underlying condition, or preventing its development in the first place. Thus, there is a strong and unmet clinical need for the development of both, novel effective therapies and preventative strategies for CLD. Many studies suggest that modifications of prenatal and/or early postnatal lung development will have important implications for future lung function and risk of CLD throughout life. This view represents a fundamental change of current pathophysiological concepts and treatment paradigms, and holds the potential to develop novel preventative and/or therapeutic strategies. However, for the successful development of such approaches, key questions, such as a clear understanding of underlying mechanisms of impaired lung development, the identification and validation of relevant preclinical models to facilitate translational research, and the development of concepts for correction of aberrant development, all need to be solved. Accordingly, a European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop was held where clinical, translational and basic research scientists from different disciplines met to discuss potential mechanisms of developmental origins of CLD, and to identify major knowledge gaps in order to delineate a roadmap for future integrative research.