The main focus of the lab is the differentiated smooth muscle cell, which forms the walls of most of the hollow organs in the body. Inappropriate contraction or relaxation of smooth muscle is responsible for a number of diseases including stroke, hypertension, heart failure, asthma and premature labor.

The Fully Differentiated Contractile Smooth Muscle Cell. Image by Raouf Khalil

The precise mechanisms by which smooth muscle contracts are, to a large extent, currently unknown. We use a combination of biochemical and molecular techniques, calcium indicator studies, digital imaging microscopy, and biophysical approaches such as direct isometric force measurement from single, permeabilized cells to try to define the signaling pathways by which contractility of the smooth muscle cell is regulated. By knocking out putative signaling molecules in model systems we hope to test their role in signal transduction as well as their suitability as target molecules for future therapeutic approaches.