A focus of our laboratory is understanding the regulation of pulmonary blood vessels by hypoxia, including non-canonical intrapulmonary shunt vessels. While we still don’t understand a lot about their structure, we recently found that they are regulated (in part) by the beta-2 adrenergic pathway. Beta-2 adrenergic receptors cause dilation (or widening) of blood vessels in the body. Blocking these receptors prevents intrapulmonary shunt vessels from being fully recruited. This is important because opening these pathways may compromise oxygen uptake, which is a major function of the lung.
There is a lot about these pathways that we still don’t understand. Our current interest is motivated by their identification in the lungs of infants and adults that have died of pulmonary hypertension. We hope that by studying their regulation, we can better understand the role they play in lung disease and develop new treatments for these patients.