Long term goals of our research
The overarching goal of our research is to understand how the brain regulates the long-term level of arterial pressure in health and disease. We have a long-standing interest in understanding how circulating hormones, such as angiotensin II and aldosterone, interact with dietary factors (salt, fat), to activate specific brain pathways resulting in stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and high blood pressure (hypertension).
More recently we have shifted our focus to peripheral mechanisms of neurogenic hypertension. This was motivated, in part, by recent reports that it is now possible to perform organ specific ablation of peripheral sympathetic nerves to treat hypertension in humans using medical devices. The initial success of this approach is a major advance in the field. One advantage of this approach is that it avoids the unwanted side effects of drug therapies that affect neural pathways in the brain. Our studies investigating the differential control of organ specific sympathetic nerve activity in hypertension provides a translational platform for development of novel antihypertensive therapies in the very near future.
Our primary focus at the present time is investigating how renal efferent (brain to kidney) and afferent (kidney to brain) nerves cause and maintain hypertension. More specifically we are investigating how interaction of renal nerves with inflammatory signals in the kidney activate sympathetic regulatory centers in the brain. We recently developed a novel method for targeted ablation of afferent renal nerves as well as methods for recording afferent renal nerve activity in rodent models of hypertension. We are currently developing state-of-the-art neuroanatomical methods to construct detailed 3D maps how efferent and afferent nerves interact with specific targets in both the mouse and human kidney. We are also establishing the physiological effects of modulating these peripheral nerves using an optogenetics approach.