Dr. LeBaron’s research is focused on human cell interactions with molecules of the extracellular matrix (ECM) through cell surface receptors called integrins. He focuses on two ECM molecules. One is called BIGH3, a proapoptotic protein playing roles in cancer progression and promoting diabetes complications in the renal and ocular systems; the lab is dissecting the molecular signaling pathway that induces apoptosis. The other is called lubricin, a protein that is crucial for articular joint lubrication. Human temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can develop a disorder (TMD) that can be exceedingly painful and occurs more frequently in females of birth-giving years, indicating a hormonal response. Dr. LeBaron's lab discovered that estrogen blocks lubricin gene expression and are presently documenting discovery in female and male TMJ cells and how that leads to TMD.
The lab studies molecular mechanisms that they believe underlie development of three human diseases; lubricin roles in TMD, BIGH3 roles in diabetic complications in the ocular and renal system, and in cancer progression. Lab methodology and techniques include eukaryotic cell isolation, immortalization and long-term cultures, introducing mechanical stimuli to select cells, characterization of new cell lines, cell harvesting from necropsies, light and fluorescence microscopy and imaging, cell attachment and migration assays, expressing and isolating recombinant protein, column chromatography, use of expression vectors in selected cells, siRNA, standard and real-time RT-PCR, DNA and protein gels and blots, and general lab procedures.
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