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Lion fountain with blue skies on Kaufman Mall.

Ruben M. L. Colunga Biancatelli


Research Assistant Professor

PHONE: 757 683 2690

EMAIL: rcolunga@odu.edu

ADDRESS: IRP 2, 4211 Monarch Way, Norfolk, VA, 23508


  • Postdoctoral fellow, Old Dominion University, 2020-2021
  • I.M., Internal Medicine Specialist, La Sapienza University of Rome, 2019
  • M.D., La Sapienza University of Rome, 2014

Prof. Colunga Biancatelli, stationed at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, has developed multiple international collaborations in the last years with research teams from Italy, England, Japan and inside the USA

Research Description

Lungs are continuously exposed to allergens, viruses and toxic inhalants. The development of Acute Lung Injury (ALI) and Acute Distress Respiratory Syndrome (ARDS) are dramatic complications that account for over 50% mortality. Patients that survive the acute phase often display sequelae and develop a persistent mild pro-fibrotic response that could led to the development of a Chronic Lung Injury (CLI). The FDA-approved therapeutic interventions for ALI, ARDS and CLI are limited. Part of the difficulty in developing novel drugs relies in the complex cross-talk between alveolar and endothelial cells and the articulate inflammatory response and cytokine storm.

In our Lab, under the guide of Prof. John D. Catravas, we test novel drug candidates that offer multi-targeted approaches to block synergistically Pulmonary inflammation.

The first class of drugs investigated is Heat Shock Protein 90 inhibitors. Heat Shock proteins are a large family of chaperons and HSP90 assist multiple "client" proteins in folding, stabilization and degradation. By inhibiting HSP90 we block multiple pro-inflammatory (STAT3, NF-kB) and pro-fibrotic (TGF-β, ERK, Smads) pathways preventing the development of Lung Injury.

Secondly, we are repurposing Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase 4A3 (PTP4A3) inhibitors, that are able to disrupt ERK, AKT, STAT3 and RhoA pathways resulting in lesser macrophage infiltration, lower inflammatory response and endothelial rearrangements.

In addition, we are similarly interested in broad antioxidative treatments such as Quercetin, Melatonin, Vitamin C, Thiamine and Phytoestrogens. To do so, we perform in vivo animal studies and in vitro assays.

Wild type and transgenic mice are intratracheally instilled with Hydrochloric acid, Nitrogen mustard, "half"-mustard (CEES) or the Spike Protein of SARS-CoV-2 and molecular, histological and mechanical parameters of lung injury are analyzed with or without treatment with the above-mentioned targeted drugs, identifying sex- and age-related differences.

Our in vitro assays are based on measurements of endothelial barrier function, performed in a Cell-substrate Impedance Sensing (ECIS) instrument capable of assessing the level of permeability of a monolayer of human or bovine endothelial cells.

Finally, particular interest is developed on collaborations within the center to implement novel biomedical approaches such as Nanosecond Pulsed Electric Field and Cold Activated Plasma in biological systems.


In our lab we wake up early to "catch the worm" and get to see amazing sunrises


The effects of Activated Cold Plasma on barrier function

Most relevant publications

  1. Colunga Biancatelli RML, Solopov PA, Sharlow ER, Lazo JS, Marik PE, Catravas JD. The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein subunit S1 induces COVID-19-like acute lung injury in Κ18-hACE2 transgenic mice and barrier dysfunction in human endothelial cells. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2021 Aug 1;321(2):L477-L484. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00223.2021. Epub 2021 Jun 22. PMID: 34156871; PMCID: PMC8384477.
  2. Colunga Biancatelli RML, Berrill M, Catravas JD, Marik PE. Quercetin and Vitamin C: An Experimental, Synergistic Therapy for the Prevention and Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 Related Disease (COVID-19). Front Immunol. 2020 Jun 19;11:1451. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.01451. PMID: 32636851; PMCID: PMC7318306.
  3. Colunga Biancatelli RML, Berrill M, Marik PE. The antiviral properties of vitamin C. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2020 Feb;18(2):99-101. doi: 10.1080/14787210.2020.1706483. Epub 2019 Dec 23. PMID: 31852327.
  4. Solopov P, Marinova M, Dimitropoulou C, Colunga Biancatelli RML, Catravas JD. Development of chronic lung injury and pulmonary fibrosis in mice following acute exposure to nitrogen mustard. Inhal Toxicol. 2020 Mar;32(4):141-154. doi: 10.1080/08958378.2020.1757791. Epub 2020 May 3. PMID: 32362214.
  5. Marinova M, Solopov P, Dimitropoulou C, Colunga Biancatelli RML, Catravas JD. Acute exposure of mice to hydrochloric acid leads to the development of chronic lung injury and pulmonary fibrosis. Inhal Toxicol. 2019 Mar;31(4):147-160. doi: 10.1080/08958378.2019.1624895. Epub 2019 Jun 23. PMID: 31232121.

Full list of publication




Awards and Honors

  • 2016-2017 Chief of Residents Internal Medicine program, "La Sapienza" University of Rome.
  • 2017-2018 Chief of Residents Internal Medicine program, "La Sapienza" University of Rome.
  • 2017-2018 Organizer of courses for Bedside Ultrasonography, Cardiad Ultrasound, Thoracic and Abdomen Ultrasonography, certified by the Italian Society of Ultrasonography (SIUMB) and included into the didactic program for the 3rd and 4th year Residents.
  • 15/10/2020 Best Poster Presentation - Old Dominion University Virtual Retreat Conference
  • 11/11/2021 Organizer of the Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics Retreat Conference

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