Interview with Lora Bankova, MD
Lora G. Bankova, MD
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project: "A Novel Cysteinyl Leukotriene Pathway for Control of Epithelial Cell Differentiation and Function"
$240,000 paid over 3 years
Award Term: July 2017-June 2020
What is the goal of your research?
We have determined that cysteinyl leukotrienes, lipid mediators generated by immune cells in our bodies, can regulated both the epithelial cell composition of the airways and the function of some epithelial cells. This opens a novel area of research on how endogenously generated lipid mediators directly regulate the initial responses to the environment and how that can result in allergic sensitization and subsequent disease.
Epithelial cells are very diverse and have different functions, for example goblet cells produce mucus that traps particles while ciliated cells move the mucus and particles away from the lung. We now appreciate that epithelial cells can also initiate immune responses through generation of cytokines and even neuromediators.
We are trying to understand two things. First, we want to understand how cysteinyl leukotrienes affect the protective functions of epithelial cells by affecting the release of mucus from goblet cells. Separately, we have found that these lipid mediators can modulate how epithelial cells initiate the immune responses in the airways. Our goal is to define the loop that translates this interaction into an allergic immune response.
How has the Faculty Development Award funding helped you?
It’s been very critical. I received bridge funding at the Brigham thanks to Dr. Frank Austen and Dr. Joshua Boyce, but obviously it cannot last forever. It was very important to get this award both for the financial support and to feel like people believe in me and what I am doing.
Why is it important to have opportunities for young investigators?
It is not a straight-forward and easy thing to get funding. Because National Institutes of Health funding is so limited, everyone is applying for the Foundation awards and every possible grant they can find. The competition is very difficult because you’re no longer competing only with junior investigators. Senior investigators are applying for these awards now.
Who are your mentors?
K. Frank Austen, MD, FAAAAI; Nora A. Barrett, MD, FAAAAI; Joshua A. Boyce, MD, FAAAAI are her mentors on this project. Lisa A. Beck, MD, FAAAAI; Bruce S. Bochner, MD, FAAAAI; and Michael F. Gurish, PhD have mentored Bankova in the past.