Peace C. Ezeh
Cellular & Molecular Medicine & Arizona Respiratory Center
As a protective layer which has direct contact with the environment, the airway epithelial surface is the stage for the initiation of signaling cascades that determine airway function. Airway dysfunction are in many cases associated with hazardous environmental exposures. However, several reports indicate airway protective effects resulting from exposure to traditional farming environments. For instance, children who live on farms are protected against wheezing. To understand environmental impact on the airways, epithelium-environment interactions needs to be evaluated. Dr. Ezeh’s goal is to evaluate the mechanisms underlying the positive environmental influence on the airways. She hypothesizes that the protective farming environments modifies the genetic, signaling, and other biochemical processes within the epithelium which cause malfunction. In addition to in vivo studies using mice models, she will use mice tracheal epithelial cells in air-liquid interface (ALI) culture to model the airway epithelium ex vivo. Using aqueous farm dust extracts previously known to suppress allergen-induced damage in mice models as treatment, and dust extracts from environments not associated with protection as control, she will evaluate farm dust protective effect on the biology, genetics, and signaling of damage-exposed epithelium. She is determining the differences in the epithelial secretion of signaling chemokines and cytokines upon exposure to the protective and non-protective dust extracts post damage. Dr. Ezeh is also studying gene expression changes, and will use bioinformatics algorithms to identify gene modules and gene networks whose expressions concertedly change in response to the different exposures.