Mark T. Nelson, PhD
Chair and Distinguished Professor
My laboratory explores the control of endothelial and smooth muscle cell function by the cell membrane. A combined approach utilizing; single cell isolation, single channel recordings, intracellular calcium measurements, laser scanning confocal microscopy, diameter and membrane potential measurements in intact pressurized arteries, and protein expression – is used to examine the physiological properties of calcium and potassium channels. Activity at calcium and potassium channels allows active neurons in the brain to call for increased blood flow; sympathetic nerves to signal changes to blood pressure; and signaling in the control of urinary bladder function. Drug treatments for cardiovascular disorders, such as hypertension, angina and stroke target these areas. Of particular interest is cerebrovascular research of small vessel diseases (SVDs) in the brain. SVDs account for 30% of ischemic strokes and about 40% of cognitive decline and disability or dementia. Currently there are no specific treatments for SVDs or preventative therapies. By studying the mechanisms involved in both health and disease, we hope to develop therapeutic targets for both treatment and prevention.
Thomas Heppner, PhD
My research identifies fundamental processes that underlie the regulation of smooth muscle from urinary bladder and vascular tissues. This involves the study of ion channels and calcium signals from smooth muscle that affects membrane potential. I use a variety of techniques, including force measurements, calcium imaging, nerve recordings and electrophysiology.
David Hill-Eubanks, PhD
My primary research contribution is the molecular perspective and iconoclastic mindset I bring to the various projects of the Nelson laboratory. When I’m not poking the dominant paradigm with a stick, I contribute writing and editorial expertise to a range of laboratory products. In this capacity, I have acted as lead editor and co-writer of numerous successful NIH grants, international collaborative research grants, and post-doctoral fellowships. I also routinely edit papers submitted by the Nelson laboratory and assist Mark in reviewing papers and grant proposals.
Masayo Koide, PhD
Albert Gonzales, PhD
Using experimental techniques from molecular level to whole animal (e.g. in vivo measurements of CBF and vivo astrocyte Ca2+ imaging), my goal is to understand the mechanisms of cerebral blood flow (CBF) regulation, specifically in the context of dysregulation of neurovascular communication in pathological conditions such as hypertension and hemorrhagic stroke.
Overall, my research centers around understanding the relationship between cellular ultrastructure and ion channel function within the vascular unit that controls localized blood flow. My previous work focused on defining the mechanistic roles of transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in vascular function. My current research efforts are targeted on understanding the role and mechanism by which contractile pericytes determine the direction of blood flow within the capillary microvasculature.
Osama Harraz, PhD
The primary focus of my research is vascular function in health and disease. I have been interested in understanding how different calcium channels in vascular smooth muscle and endothelium control arteriolar and capillary function and ultimately blood flow. I also focus on signal transduction in the brain vasculature and how the brain endothelium responds to physiological stimuli and alter blood supply to meet the neuronal needs. My work has unraveled a crucial role for the endothelium mircoenvironment (e.g. phospholipids, shear stress) in governing signaling modalities in the brain. I am also exploring how small vessel diseases of the brain (e.g. CADASIL, hypertension) or mutations in key vascular calcium channels cripple blood flow control.
Grant Hennig, PhD
My main interest involves developing ways to better describe and understand how intra/inter-cellular signaling molecules spread through biological networks to alter the behavior of various organs, such as blood vessels and the bladder. Multi-dimensional image analysis requires novel spatio-temporal approaches which I design and refine using the custom-written Volumentry platform.
Maria Sancho-Gonzalez, PhD
As a trained electrophysiologist, I am particularly interested in ion channels and CBF control. My research centers on exploring TRPV4 channel activity in the brain capillaries under cerebrovascular disease or chronic stress conditions. For that purpose, I employ patch-clamp electrophysiology, and a mouse model of CADASIL, the most prevalent monogenic inherited form of small vessel disease (SVD) which ultimately results in ischemic stroke, cognitive impairments and dementia. This research may contribute to the development of novel treatment options for such disorders.
Gerry Herrera, PhD
My primary interest is understanding factors that control smooth muscle excitability and contractility. I apply techniques from the single cell level up to the whole animal. Areas of focus include urogenital, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems. I am also very interested in laboratory instrumentation development, and I direct R&D for my family businesses Med Associates, Catamount Research and Development, and Living Systems Instrumentation. As such, I am involved with developing instrumentation for behavioral neurosciences and many areas of physiology.
Nicholas Klug, PhD
My overall research interest is to understand how endothelial and contractile cells in the smallest blood vessels of the brain and retina regulate blood flow. I am also interested in blood vessel dysfunction during cerebral small vessel disease. I utilize single cell to whole animal techniques to understand cellular and molecular mechanisms which lead to normal and diseased vessel function. I have also developed a pressurized retina preparation to better understand vessel behavior, where pressure and flow conditions can be manipulated in an intact tissue.
Amreen Mughal, PhD
My research focuses on the neurovascular coupling in the regulation of cerebral blood flow, with a particular emphasis on endothelial calcium signaling in the vasculature and neurons. With the use of In vivo imaging approaches, I am trying to explore spatiotemporal relationship between neuronal and vascular signaling during functional hyperemia. I am also interested to understand how behavioral and neurological disorders alter neurovascular coupling in the brain.
Daniel Enders, MS
As Lab Technicians, we are in charge of day-to-day management of the lab including orders of chemicals & equipment, and overseeing laboratory safety procedures. We maintain 25+ transgenic mouse lines, and are responsible for over 800 individual mice and one very important coffee maker. We assist researchers by developing mice varieties with genetic combinations they need with strict adherence to IACUC protocols.