Brigitte Gomperts, MD

Brigitte Gomperts, M.D. 

Associate Professor, Pediatrics; Pulmonary Medicine

Bio

Brigitte Gomperts, M.D., treats young children with cancer and blood diseases. Observing the side effects that chemotherapy, radiation therapy and bone marrow transplant had on her patients’ lungs, Gomperts became interested in lung repair and regeneration. Her scientific research focuses on the role stem cells play in repairing and regenerating the lungs after injury. As part of this work, she studies how this repair process can go awry, which can lead to cancer, asthma, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and other lung diseases. The ultimate goal of Gomperts’ research is to develop novel targeted therapies and prevention strategies that help lung tissue heal following injury or disease.

Because of the lung’s complexity, growing lung cells in two-dimensions in the laboratory doesn’t always provide a clear picture of lung disease. To overcome this challenge, Gomperts’ lab uses stem cells to create three-dimensional lung-like organoids that mimic the air sac structures of actual lungs. Gomperts and her team were the first to create these lung-like organoids, which represent the initial steps toward generating patient-specific transplantable lung tissue in the future. In the meantime, the organoids are useful for disease-in-a-dish modeling, high-throughput drug screening and testing for compounds that could be toxic to the lungs.

Gomperts’ lab is using these three-dimensional lung organoids to study idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, a chronic lung scarring disease that makes the lungs thick and stiff, resulting in shortness of breath and lack of oxygen to the brain and vital organs. After diagnosis, most people with IPF only live about three to five years. Gomperts and her team are also using induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patients with IPF grown on hydrogels to create disease-in-a-dish models of fibrosis to study the nature of the disease and identify compounds that may prevent or reverse fibrosis.

Gomperts’ research also focuses on understanding the tissue-specific stem cells of the epithelium of the upper airways, the layer of cells that are directly in contact with everything that is breathed in. If these cells are injured or exposed to toxins, such as cigarette smoke, they can self-renew excessively, resulting in breathing problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pre-cancerous lesions. Gomperts hopes that a better understanding of the molecular processes behind self-renewal of these cells will lead to methods to prevent lung cancer and breathing problems.

Gomperts earned her medical degree from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and completed her residency and pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis/ St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Publications

Honors & Affiliations

            Honors

  • Margaret E. Early Award for Cancer Research, Margaret E. Early Medical Research Trust, 2018
  • Member Seed Grant (Lung Cancer), STOP Cancer Foundation, 2017
  • Harvey Colton Award, Washington University in St. Louis, 2012

            Affiliations

  • Fellow, American Academy of Pediatrics
  • International Society for Stem Cell Research
  • American Thoracic Society
  • Co-Director, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program
  • International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer
  • American Association for Cancer Research
  • Society for Pediatric Research

Funding

Gomperts' work is funded by the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the W. M. Keck Foundation, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program of California, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Margaret E. Early Foundation, the Wendy Ablon Trust and the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center, including support from the Steffy Family Foundation, the Hal Gaba Director’s Fund for Cancer Stem Cell Research. 

Videos

Modeling Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis with stem cells
Dr. Gomperts' research focuses on the role tissue-specific stem cells play in the repair and regeneration of the lungs, with the goal of developing novel therapies and prevention strategies for lung diseases. In this video, she discusses how her lab is using stem cells to model a lung scarring disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in order to find potential drugs that prevent or reverse the disease.