Smooth Muscle Mechanics Laboratory

Within: Bosch Institute, Discipline of Pharmacology

Head of laboratory

On this page:

Overview

Primarily a mechanics laboratory, our main focus are is to understand the factors which alter airway narrowing and how it might relate to conditions such as asthma or emphysema.

Most of our research is at the level of basic science and for this reason we welcome any donations that can be put to research. Donations can be made to obtain equipment or even for a research idea that the donor may have.

All animal tissue used comes from an abattoir.

Research achievements

Narrowing of the airways is a major problem in conditions such as asthma or emphysema.

Exaggerated airway narrowing can be caused by different mechanisms (McParland et al (2003) JAP 95: 426). For example an airway can generate more force by increasing the number of cells which generate force or the cells themselves can generate more force due to alterations in the contractile machinery.

There are several factors which oppose force generation. Some of these factors include: stretching of the smooth muscle, viscous loading due to tissue compression and physiological antagonism of the contractile signalling cascade. Our aim is to elucidate some of the mechanisms which cause increased airway narrowing in asthma and emphysema.

The holy grail of my research is to understand what we call airway/bronchial hyperresponsiveness (AHR or BHR).

There is an airway test where a person inhales increasing doses of a drug, such as methacholine or histamine, which causes a decrease in lung function.

People with asthma have lungs which respond to very small amounts of the inhaled drug, i.e. they are have very sensitive lungs, and their lungs also respond in an exaggerated manner such that if they were to continue with inhaling increasing doses they would reach the point where they would not be able to breathe.

In contrast, most people with healthy lungs can inhale huge doses of the drug and although they may respond they do not reach the point where they are unable to breathe.