Vesicants are blistering agents, the most famous of which is sulfur mustard (also known as mustard gas). Despite over 80 years of research, the precise mechanism of toxicity for these chemicals has not been determined. Although many cellular targets are found to be affected by vesicants, those targets required for mediating the blistering response are not known. My research focuses on the cellular mechanism of action of vesicants. In particular, I'm interested in how vesicants affect the cell membrane and enzymes involved in maintaining redox balance, such as oxidoreductases. As part of the CounterACT Research Center of Excellence based out of UMDNJ, I also continue to work on therapeutics for sulfur mustard injury.


In collaboration with Emma Heart at the Marine Biological Laboratory, I'm also currently investigating the role of reactive oxygen intermediates (superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals) in diabetes The islets of Langerhans are organs within the pancreas that respond to increased blood glucose with insulin release. Damage of these islets through autoimmunity or through continued elevated glucose prevents their function. I am interested in how reactive oxygen intermediates play a role in this toxicity and how they might contribute to normal islet function.

Redox cycling

Redox cyclers are chemicals that are enzymatically reduced and undergo spontaneous oxidation in the presence of molecular oxygen to regenerate the parent compound and produce superoxide. Reducing equivalents NADPH and NADH are depleted and reactive oxygen intermediates are produced that may go on to damage cellular components. Some common redox cycling chemicals are menadione, paraquat, and quinones. My postdoctoral work focused on the redox cycling of the chemical paraquat and identified thioredoxin reductase as an important mediator of paraquat redox cycling in the lung.