Diseases of the airways, such as asthma, are often characterized by excessive constriction of tissues caused by the over-contracting of smooth muscle cells. This contraction can severely impair breathing and compromise oxygen exchange between the lungs and blood system. Calcium is a major activator of smooth muscle cell contraction, and the concentration of calcium within cells determines the extent of contraction. Using intact airway muscle tissues, Jiazhen Dai is undertaking an extensive survey of the pattern and the mechanisms of calcium-dependent contraction in both healthy and diseased airways. In particular, she will investigate a newly-uncovered pattern of asynchronous, wave-like calcium oscillation to assess its role in airway constriction. This research will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of airway constriction and ultimately, new drugs to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as asthma.