Primary hypertension is a worldwide health problem, affecting over a quarter of the world population (Kearney et al 2005). Blood pressure is controlled by neurons in the brain stem and work within the School is aimed at understanding the mechanisms involved, from investigations of neuronal-endothelial cell interactions that control the set-point for arterial blood pressure to genetic and neural factors that affect food intake, a major risk factor for chronic hypertension.
The ability to control and regulate cardiac muscle contraction is obviously critical to the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. Arhythmias are a major cause of heart problems. Research in the School is aimed at understanding the role various ion channels, such as Ca2+, Na+ and K+ channels, play in this regulation.
Poorly regulated vascular growth leading to either over- or under-vascularisation of tissues is a characteristic of many diseases including various cancers, diabetes and arthritis, to name but a few. Understanding how vascular growth factors, such as VEGF, regulate microvascular growth and function is key to understanding how to develop new treatments for such conditions. To this end the MicroVascular Research Laboratories (MVRL) are involved in projects such as the regulation of capillary permeability by VEGF and the control of the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis).
Platelets are essential to the prevention of bleeding when blood vessels are damaged. However, when platelets activate too much or at the wrong time and place, the result is thrombosis leading to heart attacks and stroke. Research within this group is aimed at understanding the regulation of platelet aggregation.