Research

Airway

Dr. Chul Kim, is a pioneer in the area of airway mucin pharmacology; His major area of research is the cell biology of mucus lining the airway lumen, which serves as a major protective barrier for the lung. Various airborne particles and toxic chemicals (e.g., bacteria, viruses, pollens, various toxicants, etc.) are trapped in this mucus layer and continuously cleared by a process called mucociliary clearance. Therefore, any abnormalities in the quality and quantity of mucus can cause serious pulmonary complications often leading to the death of patients as can be seen in pulmonary diseases such as cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis and asthma. Mucins are the major glycoproteins present in the mucus, which determine its physicochemical properties of the mucus. They are produced by underlying epithelial cells. Excessive production of mucins is responsible for airway obstruction and infection. Dr. Kim and his team have identified an agent that can suppress airway mucin hypersecretion in an animal model, which has received a U.S. patent. With this patent, a translational research is currently under way, in collaboration with a number of laboratories within as well as outside the U.S., to develop drugs to control chronic respiratory inflammation as in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

Rhinology/Skull Base

Dr. Eugene Chang is a surgeon-scientist with a clinical and research focus in endoscopic sinus and skull base surgery. His research areas include: Cystic fibrosis (CF) research, Dr. Chang is investigating the role of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene in the pathogenesis of chronic sinusitis. He published the first animal model of CF sinus disease, and has characterized novel therapies including gene therapy vectors and CFTR potentiators in improving CF sinus disease in both animals and humans.

Sinus microbiome research: the “microbiome” is the microbial community that is present in the human body. The sinonasal cavities have traditionally been thought to be sterile cavities, but new research is beginning to elucidate the vast number of microbial communities that populate our sinus. With this knowledge, we are investigating how our current therapies can influence this microbial population and prevent sinus disease.

Impact of the upper and lower airway: as otolaryngologists, our focus has been in the airway of the head and neck. Dr. Chang has been investigating how the upper airway can influence disease of the lower airway, and vice versa. This research can influence the understanding of common diseases of the lower airway, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Dr. Chang receives active funding research support from the NIH, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Dr. Chang's dedicated lab website can be viewed here.

Laryngology/Voice

Dr. Robin Samlan, Assistant Professor in the College of Speech and Hearing, received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 2012.  Prior to her Ph.D., Dr. Samlan worked as a faculty speech therapist in the Department of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins.  She has had multiple collaborations with Drs. Paul Flint and Allen Hillel and has great experience working with Otolaryngology residents and faculty in collaborative research studies.  After an additional post-graduate year of training at UCLA in 2012, Dr. Samlan returned to the UA in June of 2013 to begin her career as an Assistant Professor in the College of Speech and Hearing Sciences.  She collaborates with Dr. Mindy Black, Director of Laryngology, in the Vocal Function Laboratory.

The Vocal Function Laboratory studies the anatomy, physiology, measurement, and perception of voice and resonance in normal and impaired systems. Current and future work are focused on understanding how vocal fold asymmetries alter voice production and perceived quality. Laboratory projects involve collection and analysis of videostroboscopic, high-speed video, acoustic, aerodynamic, and electroglottographic data.

Head and Neck Cancer

Dr. Melania Mercado-Pimentel is a Molecular Cellular & Developmental Biologist, whose research interest is the study of molecular mechanisms of tumor growth and metastasis. Dr. Mercado-Pimentel’s specific research interest is to understand the molecular mechanisms of microRNAs regulation during tumor growth and cancer progression. Epithelial-Mesenchymal-Transition, or EMT, is one of the first events for the onset of cancer metastasis. Dr. Mercado-Pimentel has studied the role that inflammation factors, S100P and RAGE, play in microRNA regulation in EMT during cancer metastasis. She demonstrated that a new small molecule protein kinase inhibitor, PI-15, induces cell death by mitotic catastrophe in vestibular schwannomas, which are benign tumors caused by mutations of the tumor suppressor gene, neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). Recently, Dr. Mercado-Pimentel identified new proteins interacting with the NF2 protein, Merlin, in tumor cells.  Dr. Mercado-Pimentel is pursuing investigation of the molecular mechanisms that these new identified proteins have in microRNA regulation in tumor growth and metastasis during cancer progression of oral squamous cell carcinoma.