The respiratory tract is lined with a thin layer of fluid, airway surface liquid (ASL), which is important for lung defense against infection. Professor Baines main research interest is the study of ion and solute transport across lung epithelium (tissues that line the cavities and surfaces of internal and external structures throughout the body) and how this regulates the volume and composition of airway surface fluid (ASL) and its ability to guard against infection and the damaging effects of inhaled toxins.
Prof Baines is also committed to teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students at St George's and was Course Director of the MRes in Biomedical science from 2007-2018.
Currently, she is Chair of the Safety Management Committee helping ensure that all staff and students at St George's are able to work in a safe and healthy environment.
Professor Baines was awarded a PhD in Molecular Physiology at the University of Bristol in 1993. Following this she worked for a biotech company as a Senior Scientist before moving to the University of Dundee as a postdoctoral research fellow in Professor Richard Olver’s laboratory, working on the mechanisms regulating lung fluid homeostasis.In 2000, she was appointed as a Tenure Track Scientist at St George’s where she developed a successful research team predominantly focused on the regulation of ion transport across airway epithelium. Over the last five years, she has developed a new and unexplored area of research, investigating glucose homeostasis in the lungs and how hyperglycaemia promotes respiratory infection. She was appointed Professor of Molecular Physiology in August 2013.
Professor Baines is a Trustee of the Physiological Society, where she plays an active role in the Epithelia and Membrane Transport Specialist Interest Group. She is Chair of the Publications Committee responsible for the international Journal of Physiology, Experimental Physiology and Physiological Reports.
She has been an active Committee Member for Cell and Molecular Physiology section of the American Physiological Society and remains on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Physiology, Cell Physiology.
She is also a Board Member of the South West Thames Institute of Renal Research.
Other memberships include the British Pharmacological Society and the the British Association for Lung Research.
In 2006 Professor Baines, along with clinical colleagues Professor Emma Baker and Dr Barbara Philips, was shortlisted for an NHS Innovation award. She speaks frequently at national and international research meetings and has chaired a number of international symposia in the field.
Professor Baines research has centered on how mutations, hormones and environmental factors such as oxygen modulate cellular signalling mechanisms to regulate the transcription, translation and activity of transport proteins in the lung epithelial cell membrane. Transport of Na+ via the amiloride-sensitive epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) and Cl- via the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) are essential for lung fluid homeostasis and the regulation of ASL volume. Altered transport is linked with the pathogenesis of Cystic Fibrosis (CF), COPD, pseudohypoaldosteronism Type 1, respiratory distress syndrome of the newborn and with high altitude pulmonary oedema. A combination of molecular, electrophysiological and microscopy techniques are utilised to study these cellular signalling pathways.
Professor Baines group was the first to show that glucose concentrations in the ASL are raised in patients during airway inflammation (eg in respiratory diseases), when blood glucose levels are raised (hyperglycaemia; eg diabetes) and, more potently, when both are present (common in CF disease and COPD), making the airway more susceptible to infection from pathogens such as methicillin-resistant S.aureus and P.aeruginosa. Current research is focussed on identifying the processes by which the lung epithelium keeps airway secretions free of glucose and how these change in disease.
Currently, Professor Baines group is part of a Strategic Research Center, funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, who are utilising gene editing techniques to repair mutations in the CFTR gene and correct lung function in people with Cystic Fibrosis(https://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/the-work-we-do/research/research-we-are-funding/strategic-research-centres/src-8-hart-gene-editing).
In collaboration with other laboratories inside and outside St George’s, the group studies the wider contribution of ion transport proteins (bestrophin, TMEM16A, Kv7s, SGLT) and signalling pathways (TGFß, Smad, ERK5) to other epithelial and non-epithelial cell function.