Professor Gunst received her B.A. in Biology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island in 1973; in1979, she received her Ph.D. in Physiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; and 1979-82, she did her Postdoctoral Fellowship, Mayo Clinic and Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota.
The work in her laboratory is directed at determining the mechanisms by which the smooth muscle cells of the airways regulate their contractility and adapt to the mechanical stresses of their surrounding environment in the lung. The property of mechanical adaptation is important in the lung, because airway smooth muscle is continually subjected to stretch and shortening as the lung inflates and deflates during normal breathing. The stresses imposed on the airways as the lung inflates during breathing are known to play a major role in regulating airway tone and responsiveness in normal humans and animals. Studies of asthmatics suggest that the airway hyperresponsiveness characteristic of asthma may reflect abnormalities in the ability of the airway smooth muscle to adapt normally to the mechanical stresses placed on it during breathing.