Education and Training
BS in Biochemistry, with 1st Class Honors, Adelaide University, Australia
PhD in Biochemistry, Adelaide University Australia
Post-Doctoral in Biological Sciences and Molecular & Cellular Physiology, Stanford University, California
Our lab has several ongoing interests related to receptor signaling in human diseases, including pancreatic regeneration and substance abuse disorders.
The first project is focused on MET, the receptor tyrosine kinase for Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF). Using targeted genetic and molecular approaches to we have examined how receptor is cleared from the cell surface by endocytosis and subsequent sorting in early endosomes. We have reported that these processes are uncoupled in pancreatic cancer and contribute to tumor burden. We recently expanded our studies to characterize mechanisms important for the regeneration of pancreatic acinar cells, specialized secretory cells that are the primary target in pancreatitis. Using pre-clinical models for acute and alcoholic pancreatitis, we are investigating the clinical potential of targeting MET signaling, to protect pancreatic acinar cells from injury and promote tissue repair and regeneration. It is important to have a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms for pancreatic repair, as they may inform the design of future treatment strategies for pancreatitis.
The second project is focused on serotonin receptor signaling (5-HT) and cocaine addiction. Preclinical studies highlight the importance of 5-HT receptor signaling for underlying vulnerability to cocaine addiction and relapse. In particular, pre-clinical studies indicate a role for altered 5-HT receptor trafficking for the transition from drug use to dependence. We are investigating this hypothesis in collaboration with Drs. Katherine Cunningham and Noelle Anastasio to further understand how perturbations in receptor trafficking and compartmentalization contribute to the basal states of vulnerability and predispose cocaine users to a dependent behavior.