Critical to the evolution of multicellular organisms was acquiring the ability to synthesize connections between cells. The extracellular matrix (ECM) integrates cells into tissues, tissues into organs and organs into the organism. The ECM is an extension of the cell and participates actively in functions including development, migration, proliferation, metabolism and stabilization of tissue structure. Just as connective tissue was critical to the evolution of multicellular organisms, so too has evolution of multicellular organisms left them dependent upon connective tissue so that the ECM is associated with a wide range of diseases.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Vascular injury leads to chronic inflammation of the vasculature, causing atherosclerosis or lesion formation that leads to cardiovascular events. Likewise, injury and inflammation in the lung compromise its properties. Researchers in the Department of Biochemistry have identified basic elements of the mechanisms of vascular injury and lung fibrosis that contribute to cellular dysfunction, with emphasis on the role of the extracellular milieu.
Faculty conducting research in these areas:
- Matthew Layne (Transcriptional regulation, atherosclerosis, lung fibrosis)
- Peter Polgar (Receptor structure/function)
- Barbara Schreiber (Elastin, serum amyloid A, Atherosclerosis)
- Barbara Smith (Collagen, transcriptional regulation, atherosclerosis, lung fibrosis)
- Vickery Trinkaus-Randall (Glycosaminoglycans)
- Joseph Zaia (Glycosaminoglycans)