Research in the lab is focused on several broad topics, driven by our interests in basic science and pediatric health. By combining my background in molecular and cell biology with my clinical training in pediatrics and pulmonary medicine, I have developed research programs covering a variety of topics. All are designed to ultimately advance the health of children. These projects have drawn support from a variety of funding agencies and developed wide-ranging collaborations spanning the globe.
Obesity, Diabetes, and Asthma: I cloned T-cadherin, the GPI-anchored member of the cadherin superfamily of cell-surface adhesion molecules, as a receptor for the adipokine adiponectin. Adiponectin is an abundant serum protein expressed by adipocytes and central to a wide range of metabolic processes. Currently the lab is characterizing the phenotype of receptor and ligand knockout animals and exploring a mechanistic link with inflammation and metabolic dysfunction, including obesity, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, and asthma. We are also conducting structure-function studies on the ligand and receptor, with the goal of developing therapies to treat these conditions. This work has been supported by grants from the NIH and the Charles Hood Foundation.
Macrophage Integrated and Targeted Yeast Therapeutics: We are developing a novel method to target systemic macrophage pools using orally-delivered recombinant engineered yeast. This approach may be used to develop therapeutics to treat a variety of inflammatory and metabolic diseases and will allow us to develop, produce, and deliver a variety of therapeutics using technology that is easily transferable and applicable through a variety of resource settings. This project is supported by an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (DP2).
Global and Environmental Health: We have conducted several projects focused on international health. Prior work, in collaboration with researchers from MIT and supported by grants from the Harvard Catalyst and the Gates Foundation, focused on nebulized vaccine delivery and TB diagnostics. Currently, and in conjunction with researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Neurology, the Harvard School for Public Health (HSPH), and Dhaka Community Hospital (DCH) in Bangladesh, we are exploring the mechanistic link between heavy metal exposure from contaminated ground water, and systemic pulmonary and GI disease in a population of exposed individuals in Bangladesh. Our hypothesis is that diseases heretofore thought uniquely genetic will also have an inducible environmental component, allowing us to apply established therapies for disease in a new setting and vastly (by several orders of magnitude) expanding the numbers of patients that may benefit from treatment. This work is supported by grants from HSPH and the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE).