Carlos B. Mantilla, M.D., Ph.D. studies the control of breathing in humans. The long-term goal of Dr. Mantilla's research team is to develop rational and effective therapies for the treatment of diseases that impair the ability to breathe independently.
Dr. Mantilla's team makes extensive use of cutting-edge and state-of-the-art techniques to evaluate the function of motor neurons and muscle fibers that include multi-color, 3-D confocal imaging, laser capture microdissection and quantitative transcriptional analyses in single cells, high-fidelity electrophysiological recordings and mathematical models of motor control.
Dr. Mantilla and his team also use whole-body plethysmography, lung mechanics and wireless telemetry of respiratory function to assess the impact of physiologic changes in motor neurons, muscle fibers and neuromuscular junctions across diseases and conditions that limit the ability to sustain breathing and perform expulsive maneuvers such as coughing and sneezing that are necessary to maintain airways clear.
Dr. Mantilla's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation, among other organizations.
- Understanding mechanisms that enhance recovery of breathing function. Dr. Mantilla is working to better understand how to restore the full complement of respiratory function to people with spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury is a devastating problem that affects about 500,000 people in the United States, with 12,000 new cases each year. The diaphragm muscle is the most important inspiratory muscle and it is paralyzed or seriously impaired in many cases of spinal cord injury. Ongoing studies use exciting, new information on the mechanisms underlying recovery of respiratory function to explore novel therapies for patients with spinal cord injury.
- Aging and increased risk for respiratory complications. The number of elderly individuals in the United States is expected to increase markedly to more than 70 million by 2030, and with this demographic change there will be an increased incidence of respiratory complications that result from an inability to perform expulsive non-ventilatory behaviors such as coughing and sneezing. Dr. Mantilla's studies focus on the “perfect storm” condition related to old age where muscle fiber atrophy, decreased force and neuromuscular transmission failure reduce the ability of respiratory muscles to generate adequate forces. At the same time the respiratory system is stiffening, thus increasing the load against which respiratory muscles must contract. Dr. Mantilla's team studies the potential therapeutic role of trophic factors in mitigating the age-related decline in respiratory function.
- Growth factors and improved function in neuromuscular disorders. Dr. Mantilla's team is examining the impact of different families of growth factors (neurotrophins and neuregulins) in the regulation of neuromuscular transmission, muscle fiber properties and motor neuron survival in order to improve function and prevent complications in patients with neuromuscular disorders.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Mantilla's research into the control of breathing will help prevent complications and improve quality-of-life for individuals across the full spectrum of age, as well as patients with spinal cord injury and neuromuscular disorders.
- Associate Editor, Physiology (2012-present)
- Associate Editor, Frontiers in Respiratory Physiology (2010-present)
- Guest Editor, Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology Special Issue — Spinal Cord Injury: Neuroplasticity and Recovery of Respiratory Function (2009)
- Active Member, Association of University Anesthesiologists (2010-present)