What is the glycocalyx?

Within the micro-vasculature, blood vessels are lined with a 1.6 µm thick lining called the glycocalyx. This endovascular lining contribues to endothelial homeostasis. In the setting of insult to the endothelium, as occurs in sepsis, the enzyme heparanase degrades heparan sulfate (HS) within the glycocalyx and mediates the onset of lung edema and ARDS.  
Our lab has funding to explore and better understand the role of shed heparan sulfate from the glycocalyx in the development of ARDS. We are actively investigating the role of HS cleavage/shedding from epithelial cells and its role as a mediator of direct ARDS. We developed a simple, non-invasive way to sample the distal airspace of mechanically ventilated patients, and we are using these samples, along with cell and animal models, to characterize how HS mediates lung injury.