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Polyclonality in Murine Aortic Wall

Cardiovascular disease and lung disease are major causes of death globally. My laboratory utilizes multi-disciplinary approaches to investigate how blood vessels initially form, are maintained and go awry in disease. In addition, we study the role of alveolar myofibroblasts in lung development and fibrotic disease. Our research spans from cultured cells to mouse models to human samples. We aim to gain critical insights into the pathogenesis of diverse cardiovascular and pulmonary pathologies and leverage these insights into novel therapeutics for human disease.

Our laboratory investigates blood vessel development and disease as well as myofibroblasts in lung development and fibrotic disease. To this end, we utilize cutting-edge biochemical, genetic/genomic, developmental biological and computational approaches. We uncovered novel smooth muscle cell progenitors that undergo clonal expansion during diverse vascular diseases, such as pulmonary hypertension and atherosclerosis.

Our ongoing and planned studies of vessel and lung development, maintenance, aging and disease use similar fundamental approaches. Our initial investigations focused on pulmonary artery development, and we are studying the morphogenesis of the walls of other vessels such as the aorta and cerebral vasculature, and comparing and contrasting their morphogenesis with that of the pulmonary artery. Little is known about the maintenance of blood vessels during adulthood, and we are interested in evaluating the patterns of cell turnover, proliferation and migration as well as the underlying mechanisms in the adult vessel wall. Aging is a major risk factor for chronic disease, and we are studying the aging of the vascular system. Finally, diseases of the vasculature are thought to largely involve a recapitulation of developmental programs, and we are applying our approaches to study animal models of vascular diseases that involve ectopic and aberrant smooth muscle cells, such as atherosclerosis, supravalvular aortic stenosis, restenosis, metabolic syndrome, intracranial hemorrhage and pulmonary hypertension. In addition, we have extended our studies to lung fibrosis which is an important cause of hypoxia and hence pulmonary hypertension. Furthermore, we are studying clinical samples obtained from patients with vascular and lung diseases and relating them to our findings in animal models and cultured cells.

Current Research Projects:
  • Excess smooth muscle in pulmonary hypertension: cell autonomous and non-cell autonomous regulation.
  • Vascular wall development and disease (atherosclerosis, supravalvular aortic stenosis): progenitor cell specification, migration and differentiation.
  • Pericyte-endothelial cell signaling and blood brain barrier formation: implications for intracerebral hemorrhage.
  • Vascular smooth muscle cells in pathogenesis of metabolic syndrome.
  • Alveolar myofibroblasts in lung development and fibrotic disease.