I focus on functional characterization of airway epithelial cells at homeostasis and after injury and regeneration using advanced imaging techniques such as laser scanning confocal microscopy and optical coherence tomorgraphy. My hope is to understand the pathogenesis in airway diseases such as cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis, and how we can apply lessons in stem cell and developmental biology to tissue engineering.
Vlad Vinarsky, MD
I am interested in understanding the biological basis of metaplastic tissue transformation in human disease and the earliest molecular basis of the transition from normal tissue to metaplasia to neoplasia (cancer). Squamous metaplasia is believed to be a first step in a multistep progression to neoplasia (cancer) in lung cancer. My project will focus on determining the genes and non coding RNAs that are misregulated in the development of squamous metaplasia and also analyze the genetic and epigenetic changes that are present at serial stages of cancer progression, starting with the earliest metaplasias.
Manju Shivaraju, PhD
I am exploring the intrinsic differences between cells that make up the airway epithelium. Specifically, how the different states of these cells collectively give rise to a dynamic, flexible tissue logic. Whether in health or disease, the airway epithelium must provide a functional barrier to the external environmental and pathogens, necessitating mechanisms for replenishment of functional specialized cell types. The coordination of the regenerative response is of particular interest, because these mechanisms must be effected rapidly to re-establish the barrier function. We are exploring the behavior of single cells, positing the existence of previously unrecognized populations of cells that act as 'specialists' during regeneration to quickly enact a new regenerate.
I am interested in the mechanisms that govern collective and individual cellular migration during tissue repair. The airway epithelium responds to severe injury by migration of surviving surrounding epithelial cells. We use genetic models, lineage tracing, and live imaging to study the mechanisms of airway cell migration, including migration initiation, propagation, and cell type-specific contribution. My long-term goal is to understand the stem cell biology of airway epithelial repair and its implications for injury response in common respiratory disease.
I am working on the transcriptional networks that study plasticity and cell fate decisions of the lung and airway epithelium in both normal lung development and disease conditions such as IPF. We want to better understand the pathways that regulate the cell fate choices in cell autonomous and non-cell autonomous manner. We aim to expand our study to understand misregulation of gene expression in injury and disease models..
Avinash Waghray, PhD
I am interested in understanding the memory of a regenerating epithelial tissue. I will focus on the epigenetic changes induced by environmental factors. My hope is to be able to erase ‘bad memories’ and write ‘good ones’.