Laboratory Mission

Our mission is to enhance quality of life by providing a better understanding of the mechanisms regulating vascular homeostasis.

Research Overview

We study the structure and function of microvascular networks with a focus on the cells that line blood vessels and form capillaries, endothelial cells. Our primary interests lie at the junctions between these cells and their neighbors (other endothelia cells, smooth muscle cells, and pericytes). These junctions facilitate cell-cell communication (gap junctions) and regulate vascular permeability (tight and adherens junctions). Normal function of these junctions allows proper nutrient delivery and distribution within organs such as skeletal muscle and brain while regulating what substances may pass between the blood and tissues. We use confocal and multiphoton microscopy to study the structure and function of microvascular junctions with an emphasis on cerebral vessels. These in vivo approaches are complemented by techniques in molecular biology, pharmacology, and immunohistochemistry to better understand the mechanisms of cell-cell coordination in normal and disease states. Our ongoing purpose is to identify modifiable mechanisms that may be exploited to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with microvascular dysfunction.
Project 1
In this project, we study the mechanisms of coordinated blood flow control among cells and branches of microvascular networks in response to physiologic stimuli such as muscle contraction (skeletal muscle) or neural firing (central nervous system). We are especially focused on dissecting the pathways that are activated by cardiovascular and neurovascular disease risk factors, such as homocysteine, when coordinated blood flow control is disrupted.
Project 2
In this project, we are studying the ways in which communication between endothelial cells and pericytes modulate microvascular barriers and angiogenic behavior in the central nervous system. Our primary interest within this project is how disruption of this communication may contribute to certain types of stroke and cognitive impairment or dementia.