Drug Action Core

Drug Action focuses on areas related to pharmacology, toxicology, cellular differentiation, development, and disease. Interests include the impact of drugs and toxins on biological systems, mechanisms of normal biology, and mechanisms of disease. These are studied at the cellular, genetic, molecular, and biochemical levels using diverse model systems.

Faculty research interests include:

  • Use of nanoparticles for removal of targeted cells and development of high resolution nanoparticle labeling systems for correlative microscopy (Albrecht)
  • Regulation of tissue growth and destruction during post-embryonic development (Bashirullah)
  • Therapeutic applications of vitamin A and vitamin D analogs; retinoids in embryonic and nervous system development (Clagett-Dame)
  • Genetic and pharmacologic approaches to study cancer initiation, progression, and treatment (Collier)
  • Understanding the transcriptional networks that control keratinocyte proliferation/differentiation and epidermal barrier functions during development and under pathological conditions; developing novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases and skin cancer (Dai)
  • Bioactivation and detoxification of drugs, industrial chemicals, and environmental toxicants; biochemical basis for target organ selectivity; biomarkers of toxicant exposure (Elfarra)
  • Understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate the cellular transition from quiescence to growth; identifying critical mechanisms regulating vertebrate development that are discrupted by environmental contaminants; evaluating the impact of nanomaterials on early development (Heideman)
  • Signal transduction, transcriptional control of neuroprotective genes and neurotoxicity in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Neuromuscular disease (Johnson)
  • Identifying novel therapeutics for blinding retinal diseases using mechanism-based approaches; animal models of retinal degenerations; epithelial cell biology; high-resolution and high-speed live imaging lipidomics and proteomics (Lakkaraju)
  • Analytical neurochemistry; neuropeptides; proteomics and peptidomics; biomarker discovery in neurodegenerative diseases; quantitative system biology; metabolomics; microseparations; imaging mass spectrometry and its application to drug delivery and biodistribution; biological mass spectrometry (Li)
  • Molecular basis of prostate development, prostate cancer progression, and benign prostatic hyperplasia: roles of cell-cell signaling pathways and the use of mouse genetics to discover novel pathways that underlie prostatic diseases (Marker)
  • Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the prevention and treatment of urological cancers and benign diseases. focus areas include translational research, steroids and small molecules, stromal – epithelial interactions, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and mouse models of disease progression (Ricke)
  • Molecular and cellular based screens for the discovery of novel anticancer agents from natural substances; elucidation of molecular mechanisms of active compounds; mouse-based studies of preclinical efficiency (Swanson)
  • Pharmacogenomics of xenobiotic toxicity, including both therapeutic drugs and environmental carcinogens. Mechanisms of familial and acquired risk for sulfamethoxazole drug hypersensitivity (“sulfa allergy”). Genetic variability in phase II detoxification pathways (especially GSTs and cytochrome b5 reductase) and cancer risk both in humans and dogs. (Trepanier)
  • Investigation of causative mechanisms leading to symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer. Seeking to elucidate mechanisms of urogenital development, including patterns of innervation, vascularization and proliferative cell growth. Use of pharmacological agents to test whether they will block abnormal processes contributing to prostate diseases in men. (Vezina)

Extensive communication occurs between the Discovery, Action, and Delivery Cores because of the central importance of drug recognition processes.

In some measure the Action Core draws its identity from the traditional fields of pharmacology, toxicology, cell biology, and genetics. Research in the Drug Action Core is funded among others by the NIH, NSF, the ALS Society of America, the Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, the Hereditary Disease Foundation, and SEA Grant.


DRUG ACTION CORE FACULTY: Albrecht, Bashirullah, Clagett-Dame, Collier, Dai, Elfarra, Heideman, Lakkaraju, Li, Johnson, Marker, RickeSwanson, Trepanier, Vezina