Cardiovascular Biology/Biochemistry and Disease
Humans are complex multi-cellular organisms, and are comprised of trillions of individual cells that interact with one another at many levels.
The membranes that separate each cell, and the proteins embedded in these membranes are therefore critical interfaces that precisely regulate the transfer of metabolites and signals throughout life. Other proteins that function as molecular motors provide cells with specialized capabilities, such as the contractility of cardiac myocytes.
By studying the molecular function of membrane transport, membrane signaling systems and contractile proteins in animal models we not only know that they regulate cellular metabolism, differentiation, proliferation and death but also how they play a role in human disease.
Major ongoing research programs are aimed at investigating the structure and functions of Na/K ATPase, G protein-coupled receptors, calcium, proton, chloride and bicarbonate transporters, water and sodium transporters, platelet activating membrane receptors, cardiac tropomyosin and cardiac troponin.
Many of the genes encoding these important cellular proteins were originally cloned by the individual researchers.
For example, the sodium-potassium ATPase, the principal enzyme responsible for setting up Na+/ K+ gradients and subsequent membrane potentials in all living cells, was originally cloned by researchers in this department.
Our approach is to use innovative thinking and state of the art technology to understand (1) physiological function through the use of transgenic mouse models (2) biochemical function through the use of proteomics (3) protein function through the use of NMR, X-ray crystallography and other biophysical methods and (4) gene function through the use of genomics.
Students are encouraged to develop a comprehensive understanding of not only the actions of individual gene products but also their interactions and pathways.
In addition to increasing our understanding of very fundamental scientific principles in biology, history has shown that these insights may eventually allow the design of pharmacological agents to prevent or treat human disease.