Dr. Vasiliou’s research focuses on investigating the mechanisms of cellular responses to environmental stress and gene-environment interactions involved in a number of diseases including alcoholic tissue-injury, cancer and cancer stem cells, gout and diabetes. The functional role of aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) genes and glutathione (GSH) in metabolism, cellular responses to environmental stress and disease are investigational foci. His laboratory employs a variety of cutting-edge tools, including transgenic mouse models, mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, and transcriptomics, to understand the role of ALDH- and GSH-mediated pathways in health and disease. Currently, Dr. Vasiliou’s laboratory is studying the roles of:
(a) crystallins (ALDH3A1 and ALDH1A1) in corneal defense mechanisms against UV-radiation,
(b) ALDH1B1 (and other alcohol metabolizing enzymes) in human colon cancer and diabetes,
(c) ALDH16A1 in gout,
(d) GSH as a signaling molecule in anterior eye development and in diabetes, and
(e) GSH as a pro-drug metabolite protecting against mustard gas-induced eye injury.
Drug discovery also represents an area of active interest, emanating out of the identification of ALDHs as markers of cancer stem cells. In a multi-investigator collaboration with several universities and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), Dr. Vasiliou is developing small molecules designed to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiotherapy of cancer. Other areas of active research include delineation of the involvement of brain ethanol metabolism in alcohol drinking preference and the mechanisms by which changes in GSH homeostasis protects the liver against alcoholic liver disease.