Joe G.N. Garcia, M.D.

    Email Address: gordonk@uic.edu
    College: Medicine Department: Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine
    Title: Vice Chancellor for Research
    Office: COMRB 3099 Phone: 773-996-5023
    Webpage: http://www.uic.edu/labs/iprm/garcialab/
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    The Garcia laboratory is a renowned pulmonary research lab focusing on the genetics and proteomics of lung biology and disease. Our goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms of lung inflammatory processes, resulting in vascular leak or lung edema. The laboratory encompasses a mosaic of specialized talents to investigate all aspects of research including gene discovery, protein function assessment, SNP discovery, genetic manipulation, in vivo testing, and candidate gene and biomarker identification. Using this bench-to-bedside approach, we translate our basic research to potential novel clinical therapies.
    The Garcia laboratory was the first to clone the non-muscle myosin light chain kinase (nmMLCK) gene and demonstrate the importance nmMLCK in actin-cytoskeleton reorganization of vascular endothelial cells (EC) during inflammatory response. In addition, our lab was the first to report that sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), an angiogenic sphingolipid produced in platelets, has potent barrier-enhancing properties that can maintain endothelial barrier function and reverse endothelial barrier dysfunction via activation of cortical actin cytoskeleton involving nmMLCK and cortactin. We have demonstrated in mouse, rat, and canine models of lung injury that S1P can effectively attenuate acute lung injury (ALI) from a variety of insults such as ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI), radiation-induced lung injury (RILI), endotoxin-induced lung injury. We are currently exploring the use of FTY720, a multiple sclerosis Phase III clinical trial drug which has structural resemblance to S1P, as treatment for ALI along with various FTY720 analogues. We have a variety of novel therapeutic agents including, simvastatin, ATP, HMW-polyethylene glycol, HMW-hyaluronan, methylnaltrexone, activated protein C, sorafinib, amifostine, and lastly but not least, PBEF neutralizing antibody. Using microarrays to probe RNA from pathophysiological stretched EC, our lab identified Pre-B cell colony enhancing factor (PBEF, a.k.a. visfatin) as a novel biomarker for inflammatory response and developed an anti-PBEF antibody treatment for neutralizing extracellular-secreted PBEF. Our lab has also identified genetic differences in key proteins that increase disease susceptibility. Certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in MLCK, cortactin, and PBEF confer to increased genetic susceptibility in particular patient populations. We are creating a multi-institution bio-bank of patient samples from various diseases including ALI/ARDS, sickle cell disease, pulmonary hypertension, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, radiation pneumonitis, ischemia/reperfusion from lung transplantation.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: 10-15

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Minimum GPA: 3.5 to 4.0 Prerequisite Classes: Biology and/or Chemistry Preferred Major: Biology or Chemistry or Pre-Med Student Honors College Student Preference: Not required Years in College: Freshman or 1/2 years Prior Experience: Preferred but not essential Communication: Should be able to communicate in English

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    The student should be motivated to get trained in basic and translational research related to endothelial biology/signal transduction/lung injury. He or she is expected to work under a senior laboratory investigator to get trained in a specific area of investigation. After successful completion of initial training (1-4 weeks) will be assigned to a project and will be mentored. The student is expected to be on time and follow instructions. He or she is expected to attend weekly laboratory meetings and also make presentation of the work at least once a month. Maintenance of laboratory notebook and recording the experimental details is absolutely critical. The student is also expected to interact with other members of the group and spend the time in activities related to research.

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