Pulmonary disease research within the Department of Genetic Medicine revolves around two major areas of focus:
- airway epithelial cells that respond to aerosols and particulates generated by smoke and pollution, particularly within small airways
- alveolar macrophages that ingest and remove particles including viruses and bacteria that have been inactivated by our own antibodies
These cells perform the critical function of protecting our alveoli, tiny air sacs within the lungs that allow for rapid gaseous exchange. In the fight against dangerous pathogens and chemicals that cause pulmonary disease, much of the success of our lungs results from the biology of airway epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages. Measurable responses from this cellular defense system can be observed through chemical changes that affect DNA, RNA and protein function processes.
To understand the root causes of pulmonary disease, our genetic medicine investigators design and carry out experiments using human volunteers and cell culture models. We develop therapies for the damage caused by smoking cigarettes, water pipes and electronic cigarettes - activities that produce oxidants linked to an elevated risk of cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis and emphysema. We also study genetic disorders and viruses that magnify these diseases, such as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and HIV infection.
All pulmonary disease research within the Department of Genetic Medicine is conducted to define molecular and biological pathway changes, in order to prevent or reverse these changes in the human airway.