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The focus of the research projects in our laboratory is the effects of hypoxic stress and marine-borne toxin exposure on the distal lung, specifically with respect to responses of alveolar cells. This research currently encompasses four research projects. The first of these examines the roles of hemoglobin, recently identified by our laboratory as being expressed in alveolar type II cells, in nitrosative and oxidative stress as well as surfactant protein expression. Secondly we are developing a porous hollow fiber system that permits culture of embryonic stem cells, primary airway cells and immortalized airway cells within the fiber at an air/water interface. We are also using this system to assess adaptations diving marine mammals (such as dolphins, seals and whales) have made to repetitive hypoxic conditions while being able to maintain lung health. This unique technique may be useful in reducing the use of animals in studying distal lung during health, disease or injury, and may also serve as a system to repopulate diseased or injured airway cells with health cells. We continue to examine structural/function relationships of pulmonary surfactant proteins and the effects of marine-borne toxins (such as red-tide toxins) on lung health. This is an exciting untapped field of study and has direct impacts on human lung health since humans share the often-polluted coastal waters, whether by recreation or work related, with dolphins, whales and manatees. This project utilizes proteomic and molecular biologic techniques in an effort to identify proteins and specific mechanistic pathways in airway cells that are altered in expression or secretion as a result of toxin exposure. Finally, as Director of the MUSC Gel Proteomics facility, I am interested in development of novel separations and labeling techniques to identify, in a variety of species, disease-specific protein biomarkers and effects of drugs or stress on subcellular organelle proteins.
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