Dr. O¹Reilly¹s laboratory investigates mechanisms controlling lung epithelial cell survival and differentiation in response to oxidative stress caused by exposure to high oxygen (hyperoxia). Although hyperoxia is often used to treat patients with respiratory distress, it stimulates cell death in adults and permanently disrupts lung development in neonates. Research in the laboratory focuses on two major lines of investigation. First, understand how hyperoxia activates the p53-dependent expression of the cell cycle inhibitor p21 and how p21 controls cell growth, survival, and inflammation.
Second, understand how neonatal exposure to hyperoxia stimulates differentiation of alveolar epithelial progenitor cells and why this leads to long-term susceptibility to subsequent respiratory insults. These studies will allow us to develop novel therapies for treating patients requiring oxygen, as well as provide valuable information on other conditions involving persistent oxidative stress, including inflammation, neurodegeneration, cancer, and the aging process. Research funding comes from an NIH R01, the March of Dimes and participation in other NIH grants.