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We mainly study the molecular mechanisms underlying smooth muscle contraction and relaxation. Smooth muscle cells line along the walls of virtually all hollow organs. Their contraction and relaxation are essential for physiological functions such as maintaining blood pressure and regulating bronchial tone. Defects in their ability to contract and relax cause congenital and acquired pathological conditions such as hypertension and asthma. Intracellular calcium is a primary signal in mediating smooth muscle function, and ion channels and G protein-coupled receptors are the central molecules to regulate the calcium level in smooth muscle cells.
Our current research is focused on acquiring a quantitative understanding of the ways Ca2+ signals, ion channel and receptor activities are controlled and regulated in smooth muscle cells. We also study the molecular basis and biophysical properties of short-lived, localized Ca2+ release events (i.e., Ca2+ syntillas) and their roles in regulating neurotransmitter secretion in neurons and neuroendocrine cells.
Our research methods include patch-clamp, intracellular Ca2+ concentration measurement, Super-resolution imaging of the cellular distribution of proteins, in vitro bioassays, molecular biology, computer modeling, animal models of diseases, transgenic knock-in and knock-out mouse models, multiple photon microscopy, and high-speed (>500 Hz) wide-field microscopy developed by the Biomedical Imaging Group (http://invitro.umassmed.edu/).
 
The ZhuGe laboratory is recruiting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Contact Dr. ZhuGe for additional details at ronghua.zhuge@umassmed.edu