Research

Our department pursues research in pharmacology and therapeutics in a wide variety of ways. Check out some faculty lab information and websites below:

The Guryanova Lab

Meet Olga Guryanova, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, and learn about her research on chromatin organization and epigenetic regulation on leukemia development.


The Kopinke Lab

As stated on his website, Daniel Kopinke’s lab deals with defects in primary cilia can result in a wide range of diseases, referred to as “ciliopathies.”

He says, “The majority of ciliopathies are embryonic lethal and can cause severe kidney and heart disease, obesity and diabetes. While cilia are present on many cells in the adult, we know relatively little what their function is in the adult.

“One tissue, which has a remarkable ability to regenerate, is skeletal muscle. However, in chronic muscle diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and age-related muscle wasting, regeneration fails and healthy muscle is gradually replaced with fibrotic scar and fat tissue, a process called fatty fibrosis. We recently discovered (Kopinke et al., Cell, 2017) that cilia coordinate muscle repair by controlling the communication between a mesenchymal stem cell population, called fibro/adipogenic progenitors (FAPs), and the muscle stem cells (MuSCs). More specifically, we discovered that FAPs, the cell of origin of fatty fibrosis, are the main ciliated cell type in skeletal muscle and that removal of FAP cilia prevents their adipogenic conversion. We also found that FAP cilia transduce Hedgehog (Hh) signaling, and that ciliary Hh signaling prevents fatty fibrosis by modulating the extracellular matrix through induction of TIMP3, a secreted tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases. Excitingly, loss of FAP cilia also accelerated muscle regeneration and improved muscle function.

“We are now building on this work by investigating how cilia influence muscle healing and whether the ciliary mechanism governing intramuscular fat formation also controls adipogenesis in other tissues. We have created novel tools and approaches, including mouse genetic models and a fatty fibrosis cell culture model, which allow us to manipulate and study cilia and ciliary signaling during fatty fibrosis initiation and progression in skeletal muscle. However, we are also interested if the ciliary mechanisms controlling fatty fibrosis in skeletal muscle are also active in other tissues (i.e., heart, kidney and pancreas). Thus, the long-term research goal of the Kopinke lab is to elucidate how primary cilia coordinate adult tissue repair and regeneration. More specifically, our future research program will investigate how ciliary signaling coordinates cellular communication between stem cells and their niche, on understanding how cilia-based communication goes awry in disease and on identifying novel pharmacological tools to combat cilia-controlled diseases such as fatty fibrosis.”


The Martens Lab

Jeffrey Martens says, “Our work is devoted to understanding mechanisms of olfaction, pathogenesis of olfactory dysfunction, and the development of curative therapies for anosmia. Olfactory dysfunction in the general population is frequent, affecting at least 2.5 million people in the U.S. alone. In at least 20% of the cases, the etiology of the chemosensory disturbance cannot be identified. We were one of the first to demonstrate olfactory dysfunction as a clinical manifestation of an emerging class of human genetic disorders, termed ciliopathies, which involve defects in ciliary assembly, maintenance, and/or function. Most importantly, we have demonstrated that gene therapy can be used to successfully rescue anosmia resulting from the malformation/loss of cilia.

“Projects in the laboratory seek to identify direct mechanisms by which sensory input and deprivation regulate olfactory function and to learn how these are disrupted in disease states. Specifically, we work to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the transport of odorant signaling proteins into cilia of olfactory sensory neurons and their alterations in cilia-related disorders. In addition, work completed in the laboratory seeks to understand the importance of cilia for neurogenesis and cell differentiation, investigating their contribution to the regenerative properties of olfactory basal stem cells. Together, this work contributes to our understanding of the pathogenesis of human sensory perception diseases and paves the way for the development of treatments for olfactory loss in humans, where no curative therapies for ciliopathic disease exist.”


The Munger Lab

Steve Munger’s lab researches:

  • Mechanisms of alimentary chemosensation
  • Extraoral chemoreceptors and the regulation of metabolism
  • Olfactory detection of social cues

He says, “Odors, pheromones and taste stimuli contain important information about the quality and nutrient content of food, the suitability of mates, and the presence of predators or competitors. To detect these diverse chemical cues animals employ several distinct populations of chemosensory cells in the nose, mouth and gut, each of which expresses specialized receptors, channels and transduction cascades, though the physiological consequences of this molecular diversity remain poorly understood. In our lab we are working to understand how diverse chemosensory transduction mechanisms, including different taste and olfactory receptors, contribute to chemosensory function, impact ingestive and social behaviors, and interact with hormonal systems that regulate metabolism, nutrient response and homeostasis.”

From his website: “Sensory cells in the mouse taste bud labeled for different signaling molecules.”

The Papke Lab

Roger Papke says on his website, “Electrophysiology has long been considered one of the more esoteric aspects of neuroscience; invisible ion channels are probed with miraculously selective drugs to determine their effects on the ephemeral electrical signals of brain cells. We know that this bioelectricity is the very essence of the nervous system but, studied with only the most sophisticated equipment capable of measuring small numbers of charged particles as they traverse cell membranes at time scales faster than a blink of an eye, we see only the ghosts of its true dynamic vitality, frozen in small snapshots on oscilloscopes or computer screens. We seek to revitalize these spirits and with our accumulating understanding of cellular function and disease identify specific ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors as therapeutic targets.”


The Wesson Lab

On his website, Dan Wesson, Ph.D., says, “Here in the Wesson Lab, we explore the neural processing of sensory information in the context of behavior. This line of questioning provides an ideal platform to test specific hypotheses regarding the neural basis of sensory dysfunction in neurological disorders, including dementias and addiction, wherein sensory processing is aberrant. To accomplish these major goals, we utilize a variety of methods ranging from multi-site electrophysiological recordings from defined brain structures to cutting-edge operant behavioral assays, some of which we perform in viral/genetic models with precise neural perturbations.”

Picture of members in Wesson Lab
Dan Wesson, Ph.D., is joined by members of his laboratory.