Basic Science Research Areas
Our research explores a wide range of topics related to lung physiology and the impact of anesthetic agents on airway nerves, epithelium and smooth muscle within the context of airway hyperresponsiveness. Specific areas of focus include how interactions between signal transduction pathways in airway nerves and smooth muscle contribute to diseases such as asthma, the role of calcium-activated chloride channels in the treatment of asthma, the mechanisms of bronchospasm during induction and emergence from general anesthesia. Additionally, the complex interplay between GABAA signaling on immune cells in allergic lung inflammation and structural cells of the airway (epithelium and smooth muscle) are also under investigation. The role that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play in the response to lung injury and repair and the basic mechanisms and therapeutic options for lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) are under study. Photo-physiologics, the ability of electromagnetic wavelengths to modulate smooth muscle function in lung and other smooth muscle beds is an active area of inquiry.
Our research centers how the brain processes pain, and the impact exposure to anesthesia may have on brain function and development. Areas of focus include persistent pain in neurological diseases, how surgery and anesthesia may contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, how alcohol modulates dependence in the adolescent brain, the details of inhibitory synaptic function, and anesthetic-induced developmental neurotoxicity and brain ischemia. Additional areas of interest include ion channel structure and function and harnessing of the cerebrovascular to deliver novel therapies.
Neil Harrison, PhD
The departments basic research interests using animal and cellular investigations of developmental anesthetic-induced neurotoxicity is complemented by clinical studies measuring neurodevelopmental outcomes in children exposed to anesthetics at a young age. In order to better understand and mitigate potential long-term neurological consequences after surgery, we are also evaluating the neurotoxic and neuroprotective effects of low dose carbon monoxide in the context of an anesthetic exposure.
To reduce the risk of perioperative organ damage and improve treatment, it is essential that we develop a better understanding of the mechanisms involved. Our current research focuses on perioperative acute kidney injury, both in the context of ischemia reperfusion injury and severe sepsis. Moreover, fundamental protective mechanisms of purinergic signaling in both inflammatory cells and parenchymal cells of the kidney are under investigation. Multi-organ dysfunction is also under investigation in investigations that mechanistically link signaling molecules of renal, hepatic and intestinal injury. The mechanisms and potentially protective strategies of lung injury from smoke exposure and ventilator induced lung injury are also a focus of organ protection research.
From Emanuel M. Papper and William L. Young to the more recent distinguished researchers in our department, the Department of Anesthesiology at Columbia University has a long history of excellence in vascular research. Since at the crux of almost all clinical anesthesiology decisions is the issue of maintenance of blood pressure and perfusion of vital organs, anesthesiologist are experts in human vascular physiology and vascular pharmacology. This translates to incredible insight into the field of vascular biology, and accentuates the importance of the future endeavors into the field of vascular research. Current interests in the field include intra-arterial injections for therapeutics and imaging, and anesthetic modulation of vascular tone in physiologic and pathophysiologic models. One of the newest areas of research within the department involves the structure/function analysis of the ryanodine receptor by cryo-EM techniques, a channel with a critical role in cardiac, skeletal and smooth muscle function.