In my laboratory, I am interested in how the larger blood vessels of the body are injured by toxic chemicals in our environment. The area of greatest concentration for this work is the muscular wall of blood vessels, or the "media." Experimental drugs and other chemicals that protect against injury - or predispose to injury - are under investigation in the hope that someday we may be able to manipulate the blood vessel wall to delay the commonest degenerative diseases, with the greatest human morbidity and mortality, including atherosclerosis and aneurysm.
My laboratory has been defining the cellular and biochemical events that occur during vascular injury by toxic chemicals that are relevant to the environment, or to cigarette smoke components. Past emphasis has been on the metabolism of vasculotoxic amines to aldehydes, but recent work has defined how glutathione-S-transferases act in the defense of vascular wall against reactive molecules both in vivo and in vitro. The role of these defense mechanisms during cellular injury of the vascular wall by atherosclerosis has been a longterm objective. New directions have been undertaken into the area of "developmental vasculotoxicity," or injury occurring in utero, or during development of immature individuals.
Perhaps the most exciting new direction of the laboratory has been the development of a model of dissecting aortic aneurysm. Our initial studies into this small animal model have revealed several pathways of fibrillogeneisis of collagen and elastin that may prove to be targets of toxic insult early in life, or even during embryologic development, resulting in this deadly disease which is just now coming to be recognized as a common killer of young persons. An important aspect of these studies are recent experiments with the industrial compound n-(2-aminoethyl)ethanolamine. or AEEA, which we have recently shown to induce dissecting aneurysms. These studies are being coordinated with and are partially funded by an industrial source that includes the DOW and BASF chemical companies.