Research Interests:

Arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis are vascular diseases that are primary causes of heart attack and stroke. These diseases are characterized by abnormal thickening of the walls of blood vessels that lead to impairment of blood flow and increase in blood pressure, eventually leading to heart failure. It is becoming clear that abnormal migration of smooth muscle cells from their normal locations in the interior of the arterial wall to the inner layer close to the lumenal wall and subsequent division of newly accumulated smooth muscle cells are key events in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. However, we are far from understanding the factors controlling the migration of smooth muscle cells, why and how this control mechanism may break down in pathological situations, for example, due to injury to blood vessels during surgery.

We are interested in the mechanisms by which vascular smooth muscle cells migration is inhibited in healthy arteries, but stimulated under pathological conditions. Specifically, we study the roles of an organelle called podosome that is known to play a critical role in cell movement and invasion. Before a cell can move out of its normal habitat in the blood vessel, it needs to develop feet-like podosomes to allow it to crawl. Thus, development of podosome is the first step for a smooth muscle cell to invade its surrounding by excavating a 'tunnel' into which it can move.

In our studies, we employ a combination of biochemical, biophysical, cell imaging, and molecular biology techniques. This integrated approach is possible due to the establishment at Queen’s University of a Protein Function Discovery (PFD) infrastructure equipped with cutting-edge equipment for the study of protein function in the cell, including mass spectrometry, 2-D gel electrophoresis, confocal and epifluorescence microscopy, microcalorimetry, analytical ultracentrifugation, Biacore surface plasmon resonance, circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography and NMR spectrometry.