Primary Research Focus
Toxins in our environment cause human disease by causing oxidative stress which may disrupt normal cellular and physiological processes. The mission of the Vitiello laboratory is to determine the molecular influence of environmental toxins, oxidative stress, and antioxidant enzymes on tissue development, homeostasis, and disease pathogenesis.
We are specifically interested in discovering how atmospheric oxygen tension affects perinatal lung growth and lung disease as well as the function of antioxidant enzymes in neurological processes.
By accelerating fundamental research by defining how toxins, oxidative stress and antioxidants influence disease susceptibility and pathogenesis, we hope to improve the human condition by stimulating new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
About the Vitiello Lab
Lab Projects and News
Hyperoxic modulation of thioredoxin signaling
Extremely preterm babies with lungs that are not capable of supporting life outside the womb are treated with therapeutic excess oxygen. As a result, these babies may develop a chronic lung disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). We are investigating how a family of antioxidant enzymes, called thioredoxins, function as molecular sensors of altered atmospheric oxygen tension to promote lung development and deter BPD pathogenesis.
Redox signaling in Friedreich’s Ataxia
Patients with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA) have mitochondrial dysfunction and neuromuscular degeneration due to decreased expression of frataxin. We are investigating how a mitochondrial antioxidant enzyme, peroxiredoxin 3, regulates redox signaling and mitochondrial function during FRDA pathogenesis.
Thioredoxin-dependent redox signaling
As an oxidoreductase capable of reducing protein thiols susceptible to reversible oxidation, thioredoxin 1 (Trx1) plays a critical role in the regulation of redox signaling. Trx1 is ubiquitous, required for life, and is disrupted during pathogenesis of numerous diseases (e.g. neurodegeneration, cardiovascular failure, diabetes, respiratory distress). Therefore, this project investigates physiologically relevant molecular functions of Trx1 during tissue development and homeostasis.
Redox regulation of neuron function
Neurons have a very high metabolic rate to maintain cellular function and are therefore highly susceptible to redox perturbations. We are investigating redox regulation of collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2) as a conjunction connecting cellular redox state with neuron migration, axon specification and elongation, pain perception, and neuromuscular coordination.
Meet the Vitiello Lab Team
Rachel Laufmann, BS
Rachel has worked with Sanford Research since 2013 as an undergraduate, joining the Vitiello Lab in 2018. She is investigating redox regulation of neuron growth and function with a specific focus on thioredoxin-1 and collapsing response mediator protein 2. She conceives, designs and conducts experiments; analyzes and interprets data; and presents findings and writes scientific papers.
From 2013-2017, she worked with Dr. Jill Weimer at Sanford Research to contribute to a variety of projects, including Batten Disease pathology and gene therapy projects. She also worked on a collaborative project with Dr. Jinoh Kim to investigate COPII vesicle formation and collagen trafficking during development.
She earned a BS in molecular biology in 2016 at the University of South Dakota. She is a PhD candidate in basic biomedical sciences at the University of South Dakota.
Jared Ailts, BS
Jared joined the Vitiello Lab in 2019. He is investigating how reduced expression of frataxin in Friedreich’s Ataxia influences redox signaling in the mitochondria and influences mitochondrial health. He designs and conducts experiments, analyzes and interprets data, and presents findings.
Jared taught high school life sciences for four years in the Lennox School District prior to joining the Basic Biomedical Sciences PhD program through the University of South Dakota. He was first introduced to Sanford Research during a summer internship in 2016.
Jared graduated from South Dakota State University in 2013 with a BS in Biology and specialization in Secondary Education.
Chase Esslinger, BS
Chase joined Sanford Research in 2019 and is investigating oxygen-sensitive redox signaling via thioredoxin 1 in lung epithelial cells during perinatal alveolar development and pathogenesis of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. In addition to designing, conducting, and analyzing experiments, he assists with laboratory management including ordering, compliance, and oversight of the animal colony.
As an undergraduate he was a member of Dr. Mark Wallert’s lab and studied the role of Calcineurin B Homologous Protein Isoform 2 (CHP2) in the development and progression of non-small cell lung cancer. He later worked with Dr. Andrew Marry on understanding the biochemistry and structural biology of lignocellulosic material in the plant cell wall.
He graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2018 with a BS in Biochemistry/Biotechnology and a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Yuxia Cao, MS
Senior Research Specialist
Yuxia joined Sanford Research in 2019 and is currently involved in projects studying the role of the thioredoxin superfamily, important regulators of redox signaling, in lung development & disease. She assists with experimental design, conducts experiments, analyzes and interprets data, and assists with laboratory management.
Previously, she conducted molecular biology research at Boston University for 20 years. There, she studied the role of epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation & histone modifications and lncRNA in the regulation of lung-specific genes essential for development.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine and a master’s degree in biochemistry in China.