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Ankita Burman

Graduate Student, Cell and Developmental Biology

Dr. Timothy Blackwell (Thesis)
Dr. Lisa Lancaster (Clinical)

My research focuses on Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), which is a disease characterized by progressive parenchymal scarring that ultimately leads to disrupted structure and impaired function of the lung. It is a chronic, progressive, irreversible and fatal lung disease, with a mean survival rate of 3-4 years after diagnosis. It is a disease with unknown etiology, incompletely understood mechanism of pathogenesis, and no available treatment. Thus, IPF poses a difficult challenge to researchers, physicians and patients worldwide. My long term goal is to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathobiology of the disease and to identify potential therapeutic targets for it.

Over the last decade, increasing evidence has highlighted the crucial role of type II alveolar epithelial cells (type II AECs) in disease pathogenesis. Microenvironmental factors in the injured tissue milieu have the potential to influence the response of type II AECs to injurious stimuli, but they have not been adequately explored. Hypoxia is one such microenvironmental factor that may contribute to aberrant type II AEC responses; however its role in IPF has not been studied. In my proposed thesis project, I plan to investigate the contribution of hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) signaling to type II AEC injury responses and lung fibrosis.

My experience until now in the field of science tells me that discovery and comprehension of new concepts only serves to intensify the mystery we are probing, and I believe my research project will evolve and take new directions with time. For me to be able to tailor my project in the most productive way, I would need to have a comprehensive understanding of the basic and clinical science pertinent to my research, and also have the ability to integrate these two aspects. CPMM is a unique, highly flexible, personalized, and innovative program which has all the components that will help me to develop this comprehensive understanding and emerge as a successful graduate student.