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Michael A. O'Reilly, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Administrative: (585) 275-5948

Office: (585) 275-5948

Research Labs

Faculty Appointments


I am a Professor of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center with broad training in developmental biology, carcinogenesis, and lung disease. I am also Director of the Lung Biology and Disease Program, co-director of our T32 Pulmonary Training grant, a member of the admissions committee for the Medical Scientist Training Program and the Toxicology Graduate Program, and a member of the NIH study section Lung Injury Repair and Remodeling. I am broadly interested in understanding why preterm birth is a risk factor for cardiopulmonary disease later in life. Since preterm infants are born too soon into oxygen, my research uses mouse models and banked human tissues to understand how an abnormal oxygen environment at birth causes disease by altering postnatal development of the lung and heart. I have a strong track record of mentoring and training the next generation of scientists. I am proud to say that trainees who have graduated from my lab remain in science as Postdoctoral Fellows, Academic Physicians, NIH-funded scientists, and Program Directors in industry.

Professional Background

I grew up on Long Island and became interested in biological sciences when my 7th grade biology teacher brought clams from the Sound to school for us to dissect. I earned my undergraduate degree in Biology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1984 and my doctoral degree at the University of Cincinnati in 1989. My thesis research under the mentorship of Dr. Jeffrey Whitsett showed how the collagen domain was responsible for proper folding and secretion of surfactant protein A and how glucocorticoids regulate transcription of surfactant proteins A and B. As a postdoctoral fellow at the NIH, I sequenced and studied transcriptional regulation of transforming growth factor-beta2 with Drs. Michael Sporn and Anita Roberts, and learned how to created transgenic mice working with Drs. Heiner Westphal and Kathleen Mahon. I joined the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester in 1995 where I began to use my research training to investigate how high levels of oxygen (hyperoxia) inhibit cell proliferation via transforming growth factor-beta and p53 signaling. The preterm birth of my son in 2006 heavily motivated me to refocus my research towards understanding how early-life oxygen exposure reprograms lung development and cardiopulmonary health.


Research from my lab has shown how mitochondrial superoxide produced during hyperoxia damages DNA, thereby activating SMG1 and ATM kinases controlling p53-dependent expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21. Although p21 is best known for its ability to inhibit proliferation, my lab was the first to show that it protects against oxidative stress independent of cell cycle arrest through maintenance of anti-apoptotic proteins of the Bcl-2 family. P21 has now emerged to be one of the most abundantly expressed genes in many forms of lung injury.

The preterm birth of my son reminded me of my graduate training experience where I contributed to the understanding of surfactant biology and witnessed the excitement of a Neonatology fellow who used it to successfully treat a preterm infant for the first time. Using mice and human tissues as a model system, I have spent the past 15 years investigating how the oxygen environment at birth influences cardiopulmonary health later in life. My lab has shown how early-life oxygen exposure alters differentiation of alveolar epithelial cells, the host response to influenza A virus infection, reduces cognitive performance, and promotes age-dependent pulmonary hypertension and heart failure that can shorten lifespan. RNA-seq studies, genetic lineage mapping in mice, and investigation of human tissues are currently being used to understand how neonatal oxygen causes disease via metabolic reprogramming of stem/progenitor cells.



BS | SUNY at Stony Brook

PhD | University of Cincinnati
Developmental Biology

Post-doctoral Training & Residency

1993 - 1995
NRC Fellow, Lab. Mamm. Genes and Develop., NICHD, NIH Dr. Heiner Westphal

1992 - 1993
Senior Staff Fellow, Laboratory of Chemoprevention, NCI, NIH

1989 - 1992
Staff Fellow, Laboratory of Chemoprevention, NCI, NIH Drs. Michael B. Sporn and Anita B. Roberts

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Ruth A. Lawrence Academic Faculty Service Award
Sponsor: Department of Pediatrics

2004 - 2008
Dean's Incentive Award
Location: University of Rochester Research

1993 - 1995
National Research Council
Sponsor: NICHD, NIH Research

1988 - 1989
Albert B. Ryan
Location: University of Cincinnati Ph.D Studies

1986 - 1988
NIH Training Grant
Location: University of Cincinnati

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Journal Articles

Burris J, Beutner G, Cohen ED, Yee M, O'Reilly MA, Porter GA. "Cyclophilin D inhibition rescues cardiac function in neonatal hypoxia." Biophysical journal.. 2023 Feb 10; 122(3S1):96a.

McGraw MD, Yee M, Kim SY, Dylag AM, Lawrence BP, O'Reilly MA. "Diacetyl Inhalation Impairs Airway Epithelial Repair in Mice Infected with Influenza A Virus." American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology.. 2022 Sep 6; Epub 2022 Sep 06.

Warren R, Dylag AM, Behan M, Domm W, Yee M, Mayer-Proschel M, Martinez L, O'Reilly MA. "Ataxia telangiectasia mutated is required for efficient proximal airway epithelial cell regeneration following influenza A virus infection." American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology.. 2022 Feb 23; Epub 2022 Feb 23.

Books & Chapters

Chapter Title: Perinatal disruptions of lung development: Mechanisms and implications for chronic lung diseases.
Book Title: Lung Development, Clinical Correlates and Technologies for the Future
Author List: O'Reilly, MA.
Edited By: Whitsett J, Jobe A, and Abman, S
Published By: New York, Cambridge University Press 2015

Chapter Title: The impact of DNA damage on epithelial cell maintenance of the lung.
Book Title: Mitochondrial Function in Lung Health and Disease.
Author List: Kalifa L and O'Reilly MA.
Edited By: Natargajan V and Parinandi NL
Published By: Springer Science+Business Media 2014

Chapter Title: Cell and Animal Models of Lung Injury
Book Title: Lung Injury: Mechanisms, Pathophysiology, and Therapy
Author List: Finkelstein JN, O'Reilly MA, Holm BA, Chess PC, Notter RH
Published By: Marcel Dekker 2005 in New York, NY




Many 'Adult' Diseases Trace Back to Baby's Earliest Days