THE RAJAGOPAL LAB
Vlad Vinarsky, MD
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.
Manju Shivaraju, PhD
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.
Avinash Waghray, PhD
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..
Brian Lin, PhD
I am studying how airway epithelial stem cells decide when to make rare cells (tuft cell, neuroendocrine cell, ionocyte) and when to make the more common cells (secretory, ciliated). Each of the rare cells are implicated in human disease, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis, and understanding how their numbers are regulated will provide insight into both disease and the normal function of the airways.
Jiawei Sun, PhD
The pseudostratified mucosal epithelium that lines the luminal surface of conducting airways serves as the frontline barrier against environmental pathogens and toxins. I am interested in understanding the immune surveillance role of the airway epithelium - how epithelial cells sense and relay danger signals. I also hope to improve the genetic tractability of the human airway culture system, because mouse models don’t always recapitulate all the features of human lung development and diseases.
Manalee Surve, PhD
The airway epithelium is constantly exposed to diverse environmental allergens and pathogens. My research focuses on understanding antigen sampling cellular processes and mechanisms prevailing at the airway epithelium and their relay to immune cells promoting innate and adaptive immune responses. I hope to decipher the bridging role of airway epithelium between environment and immune system during homeostasis and in various human inflammatory and infectious diseases.