Apoptosis and cell death; Cell Cycle; Cytoskeleton and cell motility; Gene Expression; Genomics and proteomics; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Signal Transduction
One-third of our tissue mass is extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM provides structural support for cells in tissues and varies from being stiff, like bone, to soft, like skin. Importantly, the stiffness of the ECM, which can be changed by injury or disease, affects how cells proliferate and migrate. My research is in blood vessels, particularly in arterial stiffening, which is a significant risk factor for the progression of cardiovascular disease- the leading worldwide cause of death. While medications reduce hypertension and cholesterol, none specifically treat arterial stiffness.
My lab will identify what happens to cells when arteries become stiffened, and determine how this contributes to cardiovascular disease. To understand how arterial stiffening affects cells, my lab will use mouse and cellular models to mimic the stiffening process in patients. We believe that cells within a stiffer matrix overproduce certain proteins that lead to uncontrolled cell growth, which then begets even more stiffening. Identifying and understanding the proteins in these pathways will allow for the development of drugs to counteract their function. The goal of my research is to contribute new fundamental knowledge about arterial stiffness, which will lead to new medications that help reduce a key cause of cardiovascular disease.