Dr. Vassallo's research and clinical interests focus on cigarette smoke mediated lung diseases. Specifically, his research is focused on understanding mechanisms by which cigarette smoking and dysregulated immunity promote lung diseases like COPD, asthma and interstitial lung disease.
In the area of mucosal immunity, Dr. Vassallo is working with Dr. Hirohito Kita (Allergy and Immunology), and Dr. Y.S. Prakash (Anesthesiology, Physiology and Biomedical Engineering).
- With Dr. Kita, Dr. Vassallo is pursing research projects to understand how smoking influences the development of asthma using relevant mouse models.
- With Dr. Prakash, he shares a collaborative research project focused on the role of the cytokine thymic stromal lymphopoietin and the development of airway remodeling in asthma through effects on airway smooth muscle cells.
Smoking also induces certain interstitial lung diseases and promotes the development of rheumatoid arthritis in predisposed individuals. Dr. Vassallo and his colleagues are studying the mechanisms by which smoking interacts with host genes in the induction of arthritis and lung disease.
- Dr. Vassallo is working with Dr. Veena Taneja (Immunology and Rheumatology) to study mechanisms by which smoking promotes immune arthritis development using an established murine model of collagen-induced arthritis.
- He has also established clinical collaborations in rheumatoid lung disease with Dr. Eric Matteson (Rheumatology) and other colleagues, with the goal of identifying novel targets for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis associated lung disease.
Pulmonary langerhans cell histiocytosis is a rare diffuse lung disease induced by cigarette smoke. Through ongoing research efforts, Dr. Vassallo and his colleagues are trying to understand the natural history, pathogenesis, and novel therapeutic targets for this smoking-induced interstitial lung disease.
Significance to patient care
More than a billion persons smoke worldwide, and an even greater number of individuals continue to be exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke. Understanding specific mechanisms by which cigarette smoke and second-hand smoke cause airway and interstitial lung diseases, provides an opportunity to develop new therapies for tobacco-induced diseases.