The biliary tree is a branching network of ducts that serves as the “airways” of the liver. It forms the interface between hepatocytes and the digestive tract and is lined by a simple epithelium of cholangiocytes. These cholangiocytes are initially cuboidal and transition to a columnar morphology as ducts merge to form larger ducts. Surrounding the ducts is an intricate meshwork of peribiliary mesenchymal cells where endothelia, macrophages, lymphocytes, and other cell types reside.
This mucosal surface performs a vast array of functions and is critical to the proper functioning of the liver and digestion. Our goal is to understand how each of these populations of cells communicates with one another during development, homeostasis and disease. Diseases of the biliary tree, or cholangiopathies, represent a heterogenous and difficult to treat group of disorders. The ultimate goal of our lab and research is to utilize these findings to advance therapeutic options for patients suffering from cholangiopathies.