Research Associate Professor
Arrhythmias; Biophysics; Cardiopulmonary physiology; Cardiovascular Disease; Cytoskeleton and cell motility; Drug Design; Drug Development; Electrophysiology; Image Processing and Analysis; Ion channel kinetics and structure; Membrane Biophysics; Membrane Proteins; Muscular Dystrophy; Preclinical Research; Protein Function and Structure; Signal Transduction
I study cell membrane signaling molecules that alert cells to mechanical forces and the regulation of membrane tension by the cytoskeleton. I have a particular interest in the regulation of ion channels called Piezo that are activated by mechanical stress. These channels are currently being intensely studied as a point of intervention for diseases with strong mechanical components like cancer, cardiovascular, pulmonary and inflammatory disorders.
My studies of Piezo channels led to the seminal discovery of a small peptide called GsMTx4 that inhibits these channels. GsMTx4, and its analogs, have been patented by the University and are sold worldwide by multiple biochemical supply companies. It has been used in more than a hundred studies to identify the role of mechanosensitive channels in normal physiology and pathophysiology. I cofounded a Bio-Pharm company called Tonus to develop GsMTx4 into a therapeutic for diseases that have significant component of dysfunctional mechanical signaling. The primary goal of this company is development of therapies for treating muscular dystrophy, cardiomyopathy and inflammatory related pathology.
My lab leverages real-time fluorescence imaging, optical force probes, genetics, molecular biology and peptide chemistry to study how cellular mechanical stress is transmitted to signaling molecules in muscle and chondrocytes in in vitro disease models for muscular dystrophy and osteoarthritis. We use single cells assays and develop model systems of higher order differentiated tissue organoids. I have ongoing collaborations with researchers that use animal disease models in cardiomyopathy, muscular dystrophy, osteoarthritis and gastro-intestinal disease to test potential therapeutic interventions.
I serve the university and department of Physiology and Biophysics in multiple capacities. I have mentored multiple high school and undergraduate students interested in science careers in summer research programs, and I coordinate our departmental seminar series. I co-coordinating and lecture in the Cell Membrane Physiology PGY 405-505 course, a core course in our graduate program and an advanced course for higher level undergraduates. I also lecture and co-coordinate the IMC 604 pulmonary/respiratory module for second year medical students. I am serving on the medical school Phase 1 curriculum development sub-committee.