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A cross-divisional department spanning

Research Areas

Toxicology, Physiology, & Cell Biology


Chronic diseases such as COPD, asthma, cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and cardiovascular diseases are major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Our research is focused on the pathophysiology of these diseases, the discovery of novel molecular mechanisms, and the development of new innovative therapeutic strategies. Opportunities for doctoral student research are related to an understanding of how the environment leads to chronic diseases. There is a strong focus on lung and vascular diseases, but environmental pollutants often lead to toxic pathologies in multiple organs, that are also studied. This mechanistic approach involves several disciplines including immunology, physiology, toxicology, genetics, and epigenetics. Students will obtain a broad education that will enable a long and successful research career.


Research Highlights

Prostate Cancer Cells Become 'Shapeshifters' to Spread to Distant Organs

One of prostate cancer's worst features is its ability to spread to distant sites, particularly bone, and to start new, malignant outposts, and Johns Hopkins researchers have turned up an important clue — and a potential new avenue for treatment. Hopkins scientists report they have discovered a biochemical process that gives prostate cancer cells the almost unnatural ability to change their shape, squeeze into other organs and take root in other parts of the body. The scientists say their cell culture and mouse studies of the process, which involves a cancer-related protein called AIM1, suggest potential ways to intercept or reverse the ability of cancers to metastasize, or spread. Learn more about this cutting-edge research.


Demonstrating that Lab-grown "Mini-brains" can be Infected with COVID-19

Associated Faculty

Shyam Biswal, PhD

Biswal and his team is currently engaged in translational research focusing on the elucidation of pathways and mechanism by which transcription factor Nrf2 regulates the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases.



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Joseph Bressler, PhD*

Bressler's laboratory has been identifying transporters that mediate the uptake of toxicants through the intestine and into the brain, and are examining the effect of toxicants on the regulation of apoptosis.


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John Groopman, PhD*

Groopman's research involves the development and application of molecular biomarkers of exposure, dose, and effect from environmental carcinogens.


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Thomas Hartung, MD*

The main goal of Dr. Hartung's work is toward a paradigm shift in toxicity testing to improve public health.


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Mark Kohr, PhD*

Kohr's research activities seek to define the underlying redox-sensitive signaling pathways and the mechanistic consequences of redox-based post-translational protein modifications in healthy and diseased myocardium.


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Paul Locke, JD, DrPH

Locke's areas of study include alternatives to animals in biomedical testing and toxicology, radon risk science and policy, radiation risk analysis, uranium mining, high-level radioactive waste disposal and the application of low dose radiobiology to policy making.


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Wayne Mitzner, PhD*

Mitzner's interests are focused on the structural basis of physiologic lung function and how this normal structure manifests itself in pathologic situations and environmental exposures. His current work is concerned with understanding the mechanisms that underlie the chronic lung tissue destruction that occurs in emphysema. 


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Fenna Sillé, PhD*

The focus of Dr. Sillé's research is understanding the effects of environmental exposures on the development and function of our immune system. Her major research directions are:

1. Understanding the long-term effects of early-life arsenic exposures on immunity and (infectious) disease risk. - Currently studying the interaction between arsenic and tuberculosis,

2. Establishing an integrated platform for immunotoxicity testing of early-life chemical exposures,

3. Investigating the effects early-life exposures on immunological memory and vaccine efficacy.


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Marsha Wills-Karp, PhD

Wills-Karp's activities focus on defining the environmental and genetic determinants of allergic airway diseases such as asthma. Her lab has specifically explored the role of CD4+ Th2 cells and cytokines (IL-13), and innate immune pathways (complement activation pathways, TLRs, CLRs), in the pathogenesis of asthma. She has recently turned her attention to how the gut microbiome alters susceptibility to allergen and PM-induced asthma.


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*Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.