Ongoing projects in the lab include identifying mechanisms by which environmental contaminants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) influence the lower urinary tract. Particularly when these chemicals are present during early development. We use in vitro and in vivo models to elucidate the physiological targets of PCB exposure and try to understand how these endpoints impact urinary function.
Project 1: One of the essential functions of the bladder epithelium is to serve as a barrier between urine and the rest of the body. Determining whether developmental exposure to environmental exposures disrupts the cellular organization of the epithelium or disrupts barrier function is an important aspect in understaning the toxicity of these chemicals.
Image of a bladder section labeled with antibodies targeting Keratin 5 (green) to label basal epithelium and Keratin 20 (red) to label superficial epithelium of the bladder. Nuclei are in blue.
Project 2: Innervation of the bladder is critical for sensing fullness and maintaining proper urinary tract function. We are studying how environmental chemicals like PCBs impact the patterning and abundance of nerve fibers within the bladder and how this might influence bladder function.
Image of a bladder section labeled with antibodies targeting E-cadherin (red) to label all bladder epithleium and BIII-tubulin (green) to label nerve fibers. Nuclei are in blue.
Project 3: Inflammation is a key mediator of lower urinary tract symptoms. We are determining whether developmental PCB exposure may alter bladder function in part by increasing inflammation in the bladder.
Image of a bladder section labeled with antibodies targeting E-cadherin (red) to label all bladder epithlium and CD45 (green) to label immune cells. Nuclei are in blue.
Project 4: In vitro approaches to understand the impact of PCBs on the peripheral nervous system. Dorsal root ganglia within the spinal cord project axons to innervate the bladder and contribute to the crosstalk between the bladder (peripheral nervous system) and brain (central nervous system) to facilitate micturition. Using dorsal root ganglia cultures we can address changes to signaling pathways and development in the presence of PCBs in a controlled environment.
Image of dorsal root ganglia culture labeled with antibodies targeting BIII-Tubulin (red) to label all nerve fibers and CGRP (green) to label sensory afferents. Nuclei are in blue.