Defining Functions for Epithelial and Inflammatory Cell Proteases in Lung Diseases
The Caughey lab is interested in understanding how protein-cleaving enzymes of mast cells, white blood cells, and cells lining the airway contribute to inflammation, host defense, tissue remodeling and barrier function in the lung. These studies relate to clinical problems in asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, lung transplantation and bacterial pneumonia. These areas of research are especially related to veterans who have inhaled toxins, who smoke cigarettes, who have received allografts to treat end-stage lung disease, or have lung and bronchial infections. The Caughey lab is perhaps best known for his work with mast cells, which play major roles in allergic diseases, including asthma and fatal reactions to bee stings. He has focused on mast cell proteases, which are enzymes that break down proteins. Over the past decade, the Caughey lab has developed several compelling lines of evidence to suggest that these proteases play deleterious roles in allergic diseases. This work has assisted pharmaceutical development of new classes of anti-inflammatory drugs to treat asthma and other diseases involving mast cells. More recently, he has focused on the positive contributions of mast cells and their proteases to host defense against bacteria and other pathogens, on their role in modulating the inflammatory response to infection, and on defining genetic variation in mast cell protease genes that influence diseases like asthma.