EJ Anderson Lab
From the 1970’s until early 1990’s, mitochondria were simply known as the ‘powerhouse of the cell,’ making ATP by consuming carbon-based nutrients at the expense of oxygen, and if they were ‘sick,’ they made oxygen radicals too. In the last 20 years, however, there has been a complete Renaissance in the field of mitochondrial biology, such that we now know that ALL mitochondria, not just the sick ones, are huge generators of reactive oxygen species, they are primary regulators of cell death and differentiation, Ca2+ and nitric oxide signaling, they serve as a platform for kinase and phosphatase signaling, and purveyors of signals coming into and out of the cell that regulate gene expression (e.g., cytokines, hormones, growth factors, etc). Mitochondria also contain their own genome, making them a singular organelle with a distinct and critical role in the cell and in the body.
There are 3 major areas of research ongoing in the Anderson lab, with several projects in both basic science and translational research contained within each area. The mitochondria is a focal point within the entire research program of the lab, and the broad objective of the lab is directed towards a greater understanding of the role of mitochondria in cellular signaling pathways. Long-term, this would be expected to lead to novel pharmaceutical therapies.
A brief overview of each area and project information can be found in the links below.
Note: We are collaborating with cardiac surgeons within our institution, and elsewhere, to obtain samples of human heart tissue. Most of this is from the right atrium, which is obtained during routine cardiac surgeries right before the heart is stopped. So we get tissue dissected immediately from the patient on the operating table, and placed straight into our preparatory dish, or frozen in liquid nitrogen. From this tissue, we perform biochemical assays immediately on the fresh tissue (within 1-2 hours), or we cryo-freeze to study later. Fibroblasts are also cultured from these samples, and we have fibroblast cultures frozen in cryo-vials from dozens of patients available upon request. The East Carolina Heart Institute is centered in Eastern North Carolina, with a rural and highly diverse patient population. Our tissue bank contains >400 samples atrial tissue from men and women: ~25% are black patients (self-identified), ~45% are diabetic, and ~15% have chronic atrial fibrillation. Blood samples from each patient (preoperative) are also available.