Al Alam Laboratory

Research Topics

  • Novel therapies for childhood lung diseases such as pulmonary hypoplasia and bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Molecular pathways of embryonic lung development
  • Therapeutic intervention or prevention in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)

Research Overview

Investigators at the Al Alam lab are studying the developmental processes of childhood lung diseases such as pulmonary hypoplasia and bronchopulmonary dysplasia – congenital lung diseases that are co-morbid conditions to other congenital malformation such as diaphragmatic hernia and congenital heart disease.  

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a lung disease that occurs most often in babies who are born severely premature—more than 10 weeks before their due date. Babies with BPD have inflammation and scarring in the lungs, and about 5,000 to 10,000 infants born in the United States each year have BPD.  Due to great advances in medicine over the past decades, more premature infants are surviving, and there is a dire need for a better understanding of the developmental processes and diseases in order to help those infants continue to develop healthy lungs and live normal lives.

The Al Alam research  lab is focused on understanding the interaction between Wnt signaling, an important pathway for the development of many organs including the lung, and the small Rho GTPase Rac1 protein, that plays an important role in cell proliferation, differentiation and cell polarity. The right balance between these events is crucial for the development of a healthy and fully functional lung.  By studying the molecular pathways of embryonic lung development, the Al-Alam research team hopes to gain information that will be useful in developing treatments for the severe breathing problems in premature babies with BPD.

Al Alam is collaborating with other researchers at CHLA to understand the novel pathways for therapeutic intervention or prevention for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) – the death of tissue in the intestine.  NEC is a highly morbid disease that can lead to multiple complications, including intestinal strictures, short gut syndrome, repeated surgeries, and extended hospital stays. Current therapies for the prevention or treatment of NEC are limited, and patients presently face a mortality rate of approximately 30%.  Advances in understanding the growth factor signaling cascades that maintain the healthy developing intestine could lead to new methods for treating or preventing this devastating illness.

Funding

The laboratory is currently funded by the American Heart Association and the SC-CTSI small pilot grant (NIH).

American Heart Association Scientist development Grant

(07/01/2014-06/30/2018)

Role of Rac1 in lung development

This grant seeks to determine whether the small Rho GTPase Rac1 protein plays an important role in lung morphogenesis through regulation of canonical Wnt signaling.

SC-CTSI (NIH/NCATS) UL1TR000130

(03/15/2014-06/30/2015)

The role of Fibroblast Growth Factor 10 (FGF10) in necrotizing enterocolitis.

This grant seeks to determine the protective role of FGF10 in neonatal rat model of necrotizing enterocolitis as well as the presence of soluble FGF10 in human breast milk.