Rochester, Minnesota




Douglas Brownfield, Ph.D., studies lung development, repair and regeneration with the goal of improving the treatment of pulmonary disease. Using single-cell transcriptomics, genetically engineered mouse models and three-dimensional organotypic culture, Dr. Brownfield's lab maps the lung's cellular and molecular components at single-cell resolution over time, and identifies regulators of its proper construction.

Dr. Brownfield's multidisciplinary team applies their findings in adults to determine whether regulators are reinitiated after injury, disrupted in disease, or useful in the development of regenerative therapies that repair or replace defective tissue.

Students and fellows with biological, engineering or medical backgrounds are welcome to inquire about open positions in Dr. Brownfield's lab.

Focus areas

  • Molecular and temporal regulation of cellular plasticity. While studying a molecular signal critical in fate selection of the distal lung epithelium, Dr. Brownfield's lab found that a window of plasticity exists wherein fate conversion can occur. Characterization of the timing and molecular basis of this window is underway as well as work on its relevance in repair and regeneration.
  • Biophysical regulation of cell differentiation. While mechanical cues have long been implicated in shaping lung development, more research is needed to understand how they differentially manifest and mediate changes at the cellular and molecular level. The lab is studying how cell-intrinsic mechanical properties are regulated during development and what their impacts are on cellular differentiation.
  • Development of regenerative therapeutics. Using a novel engraftment model, the lab is actively testing findings from developmental studies to determine whether regulation of cellular plasticity can improve progenitor expansion in vitro as well as repair in vivo.

Significance to patient care

Pulmonary disease can occur when the processes underlying lung construction or repair are defective, resulting in missing components or disrupted architecture. Such is the case for bronchopulmonary dysplasia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis, in which defects arise in the tissues that mediate gas exchange, known as alveoli. By understanding the process by which alveoli are constructed, Dr. Brownfield seeks to develop novel therapeutic approaches to promote alveolar repair.

Professional highlights

  • Recipient, K99/R00 NHLBI Pathway to Independence Award, 2016-present
  • Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Harvard University, 2019-2021
  • Recipient, American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2014-2016
  • Recipient, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award, 2006-2009


Administrative Appointment

  1. Senior Associate Consultant I-Research, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine
  2. Senior Associate Consultant I-Research, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  3. Senior Associate Consultant I-Research, Department of Physiology & Biomedical Engineering

Academic Rank

  1. Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  2. Assistant Professor of Medicine


  1. Post Doctoral Fellowship Stanford University, Department of Biochemistry
  2. Graduate Research Assistant Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  3. Ph.D. - Major - Bioengineering Minor - Management of Technology University of California, Berkeley
  4. Summer Intern - Research Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine
  5. BS - Biomedical Engineering Tulane University
  6. Summer Intern - Department of Pediatrics Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine

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