Although a lifesaving intervention in the critically ill patient with respiratory failure, the use of mechanical ventilation (a "breathing machine") may paradoxically wound the lung. This ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI) is a preventable, hospital-acquired form of the adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and is responsible for extra patient days spent in the intensive care unit and hospital as well as significant long-term morbidity and mortality.
The laboratory of Richard A. Oeckler, M.D., Ph.D., is interested in understanding the pathophysiologic mechanisms central to acute lung injury (ALI), with an ultimate goal of exploiting such knowledge to develop translational therapies that either treat or prevent the development of ALI, VILI and ARDS in the mechanically ventilated patient.
Dr. Oeckler and his team seek to understand how cells sense and respond to physical forces — a process termed mechanotransduction — and specifically focus on how individual lung cells wound and repair in response to deforming stress. The group's research examines how clinically relevant parameters such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, pH and osmolarity may affect chemical signals important for the repair process and seeks to alter these mechanisms to either prevent wounding or improve cellular repair.
- Hypercapnic modulation of alveolar cell wounding and repair in the ventilator-injured lung. Bench (cellular and rodent studies) research investigating the mechanisms by which gas tensions (levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide and reactive oxygen species) influence lung cell wounding and repair mechanisms.
- Translational adjuncts to lung-protective ventilation strategies. Based upon findings in in vitro and animal models, ongoing and future therapeutic trials include direct chemical and osmotic interventions to prevent or repair lung injury in the mechanically ventilated patient.
Significance to patient care
By drawing on techniques from classical lung physiology, biochemistry and biophysics, Dr. Oeckler and his colleagues seek to identify the determinants of cell wounding and repair. Their ultimate goal is to exploit this understanding to treat or prevent stress- and deformation-induced cellular injury, the consequences of which extend beyond ALI, ARDS and VILI in the lung — and are directly relevant to the field of hypertension, pathology of the heart and kidney, and the processes of bone remodeling and repair.
- Parker B. Francis Fellowship in Pulmonary Research, 2012-2015
- Program Committee, Respiratory Structure and Function, American Thoracic Society, 2012-present
- Mayo Brothers Distinguished Fellowship, Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, 2006