Professor, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology
Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health
Professor, Internal Medicine
Canada Research Chair in Airway Cell and Molecular Biology
Our research interests in epigenetics stem from the impact of environmental factors on pathophysiology of chronic lung disease. In particular we are interested in understanding the mechanism that lead to a stable disease-phenotype, highlighted by changes in proliferation, secretory function and senescence, that are described for airway smooth muscle and lung fibroblasts. Ties to these interests is the need to understand susceptibility to disease onset and severity, both for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A lead project for us is to interrogate DNA methylation profiles in airway epithelial cells obtained from human donors by bronchial brushing during bronchoscopy. Working within the Discovery Platform of the CIHR Canadia n Respiratory Research Network, we are using multiple approaches to compare DNA methylation patterns in individuals who are: smokers with no lung disease; smokers who do exhibit obstructive lung disease; and, individuals who have never smoked. Once we profile these methylation signatures we plan in vitro experiments using primary human airway epithelial cells from never-smoked, healthy donors to examine how acute and repeated exposure to cigarette smoke leads to changes in DNA methylation. Our work will also assess the impact of emerging and currently used medication on this response to determine whether epigenetic changes are associated with loss of effectiveness of pharmacotherapy for airways disease.