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Research in the ZhuGe Lab

The goal of our research is to understand the principles of smooth muscle contractile function and apply them to treat smooth muscle disorders.

Smooth muscle, lining along the walls of virtually all hollow organs, plays pivotal roles in physiological functions such as maintaining blood pressure, regulating bronchial tone and expelling fetus at birth.  Defects in this type of cell cause congenital and acquired pathological conditions such as hypertension, asthma and preterm birth. 

Intracellular calcium is a primary signal in mediating smooth muscle function, and ion channels and G-protein coupled receptors are the major molecules to regulate the calcium level in smooth muscle.  Research in our laboratory is focused on acquiring a quantitative understanding of the ways Ca2+ signals, ion channel and receptor activities are controlled and regulated in smooth muscle in normal and disease conditions.

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 methods include patch-clamp, intracellular Ca2+ concentration measurement, 2D and 3D visualization of cellular distribution of proteins, in vitro bioassays, molecular biology, computer modeling, animal models of diseases, transgenic knock-in and knock-out mouse models, and high-speed (>500 Hz) wide-field microscopy developed by the Biomedical Imaging Group.