Research

Our research goal is to establish the Physiology Research Program of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth as an nationally and internationally recognized program of research and pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training. The core of the department’s research is the physiology and pathophysiology of the cardiovascular system. Our members are nationally and internationally recognized in their specific areas of research. Faculty members of the department serve on grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, as well as the editorial boards of prestigious cardiovascular journals, and hold offices in several scientific and clinical organizations.

Current Research Projects

J. Thomas Cunningham, Ph.D., Interim Chair and Regents Professor
(Ph.D., Biopsychology, University of Iowa, 1988). We investigate the role of the central nervous system in body fluid homeostasis and cardiovascular regulation. Current projects focus on the physiological regulation of vasopressin release by visceral afferents and the roles of hypothalamic TRP channels and brain derived neurotrophic factors in syndrome of inappropriate ADH (SIADH). We also study hypothalamic mechanisms that influence sympathetic outflow in animal models of hypertension.

Ladislav Dory, Ph.D., Professor
(Ph.D. Biochemistry, McGill University, 1978).  Oxidative stress and disease (cardiovascular, lung, gut, innate immunity) with special emphasis on the role of extracellular superoxide dismutase; use of lactobacillus-derived probiotics expressing this enzyme. Use of hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of diseases initiated by oxidative stress, including atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and others.  Research focus is on Oxidative stress degrades many components of the body, not unlike it degrades iron to rust. In some cases some it can play a beneficial role by stimulating the body’s defense mechanisms to activate anti-oxidative stress components. Exposure to hyperbaric oxygen (pure oxygen administered at higher than normal pressure for brief periods) has been shown, in my laboratory, to significantly reduce or even reverse atherosclerosis in animals. I would like to extend these observations to other diseases that have the oxidative stress component

Stella Goulopoulou, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
(Ph.D., Exercise Physiology and Science Education, Syracuse University, 2010). Research focuses on vascular physiology and pathophysiology with a great emphasis on women’s cardiovascular health.  The main goal is to identify novel molecular mechanisms that are associated with maternal and offspring vascular dysfunction and discover new pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments that could be safely used during pregnancy.  Our research questions address: 1) the effects of placenta-derived factors on maternal vascular health during pregnancy, 2) the role of pre-existing obesity on maternal vascular adaptations and pregnancy outcomes, and 3) the role of pregnancy complications in the development of maternal and offspring risk for cardiovascular disease.  The laboratory uses integrative (e.g., physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, immunology) and translational (e.g., rodents, humans) experimental approaches, and a wide variety of techniques including cell culture (e.g., primary vascular smooth muscle cells), ex vivo (e.g., isolated vessels) and in vivo techniques (e.g., blood pressure measurements).

Patricia A. Gwirtz, Ph.D., Associate Dean, GSBS; Professor
(Ph.D., Physiology, Thomas Jefferson University, 1978). Informed consent applies the core principle of “Respect of Persons” to ethical research. Respect of research subjects implies considering and valuing the opinions and choices made by a subject having adequate knowledge. This requires that the subject fully comprehend the informed consent; otherwise their rights are compromised. A major barrier to comprehension occurs when the informed consent must be translated. Current research is examining the effects of these linguistic problems and other factors (e.g., education) on comprehension of the consent process.

Andras G. Lacko, Ph.D., Professor
(Ph.D., Biochemistry, University of Washington Seattle WA 1968), Research focuses on development and evaluation of targeted biocompatible transport systems for systemic drug delivery, particularly for cancer chemotherapy.  Of particular interest is the uptake of chemotherapeutic agents from lipoprotein type nanoparticles via a receptor-mediated mechanism that allows selective delivery of drugs to tumors vs normal tissues.

Rong Ma, Ph.D., Professor
(Ph.D., Physiology, University of Nebraska, 1999) Research focuses on Ca2+-conductive channels (TRP channels) in kidney (glomerular mesangial cells and podocytes) and vascular smooth muscle cells. Major interests include regulation of TRP channels by protein kinases and reactive oxygen species, physiological relevance of TRP channels in kidney and blood vessels, and the association of TRP channel dysfunction with kidney and vascular diseases, such as diabetic nephropathy and vasculopathy

Robert T. Mallet, Ph.D., Regents Professor
(Ph.D., Physiology, George Washington University, 1986). Research emphasizes development of novel strategies to protect heart and brain from ischemic and inflammatory injury by modifying metabolic fuel supply to these organs, or by hypoxia conditioning. Current studies are defining mechanisms responsible for protection of the heart and brain by pyruvate during cardiac arrest-resuscitation, cardiopulmonary bypass surgery and hemorrhagic shock, and robust preservation of ischemic heart muscle and brain by intermittent, normobaric hypoxia conditioning.

Keisa W. Mathis, Ph.D.Assistant Professor
(Ph.D, Physiology, LSU Health Sciences Center, 2009). The primary focus of the Mathis Laboratory is to investigate neuroimmune mechanisms that contribute to the pathogenesis of hypertension and renal injury. We are interested in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease with a high prevalence of hypertension that primarily affects young women. The autonomic dysfunction and chronic inflammation in SLE makes it an ideal disease model to study neuroimmune interactions that may lead to alterations in the kidney and ultimately hypertension. We are currently investigating the vagally-mediated, cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway and its role in the development of chronic inflammation and hypertension in a mouse model of SLE using integrative physiological approaches complimented with molecular, cellular and immunological techniques. Our research may lead to important clinical implications for not only patients with SLE and essential hypertension, but also for patients with other diseases of chronic inflammation.

Caroline Rickards, Ph.D., Associate Professor
(Ph.D.,Doctor of Physiology, RMIT University Melbourne, Australia).  General research research interests encompass understanding the integrated cardiovascular, autonomic and cerebrovascular responses to hypovolemic stressors in humans, with an emphasis on hemorrhage and orthostasis. While working with the US Army at the Institute for Surgical Research in San Antonio, my research focused on the early detection of hemorrhagic injury in trauma patients, and characterizing physiological differences between individuals with high versus low tolerance to this stress.  My current projects in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Anatomy continue this line of investigation, with a particular focus on examining the role of hemodyamic variability (i.e., in arterial pressure and cerebral blood flow) on the protection of cerebral tissue perfusion and oxygenation.  It is anticipated that these studies will have potential clinical applications to stroke, traumatic brain injury, hemorrhage, migraine, and orthostatic intolerance.

Steven Romero, Ph.D.Assistant Professor
(Ph.D., Human Physiology, University of Oregon, 2014 ). The Human Vascular Physiology Laboratory has two primary research themes. The first research theme centers on investigating how the human vascular system adjusts and adapts to exercise and environmental stress in healthy and diseased populations. The second research theme centers on examining the vascular and functional maladaptations that accompany various diseases (e.g. hypertension, aging, peripheral arterial disease), in addition to identifying novel therapies that may mitigate such detrimental changes.

Ann Schreihofer, Ph.D., Professor
(Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Research efforts focus on how the brain regulates the cardiovascular system in health and disease states.  The laboratory uses a combination of electrophysiological, neuroanatomical, molecular, and physiological approaches to investigate how the brain modulates the autonomic nervous system to maintain blood pressure.  Using rats, the laboratory is currently focused how obesity (and metabolic syndrome) and exposure to chronic intermittent hypoxia (as a model for obstructive sleep apnea) alter autonomic regulation of blood pressure to promote hypertension.

Michael L. Smith, Ph.D., Professor
(Ph.D., Biology, University of North Texas, 1986). Research efforts focus on the neural control of cardiovascular function relating to mechanisms of sudden cardiac death, syncope, exercise training effects, and mechanisms of the association between obstructive sleep apnea and hypertension.

Fen Sun, Ph.D.Research Assistant Professor
(Ph.D., Neurology, Zhejiang University). Research efforts focus on developing clinically relevant approaches that would help restore brain functions in cerebral ischemia, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. Currently I have been focusing on investigating the therapeutic effects on cerebral ischemia of a novel class of compounds, positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (α7-nAChRs).

Johnathan Tune, Ph.D., Professor and Chair
(Ph.D., Physiology, University of North Texas Health Science Center, 1997). Research in the Tune laboratory focuses on the regulation of myocardial oxygen delivery, contractile function and metabolism in health and disease. The primary goal centers on elucidating mechanisms of impaired coronary and cardiac function in the setting of obesity and diabetes. More specifically, experiments are designed to delineate putative mechanisms responsible for the regulation of coronary blood flow, identify factors that contribute to the initiation and progression of coronary vascular dysfunction and disease, and protecting the heart from irreversible ischemic damage. Studies routinely include a series of highly integrative experimental approaches which utilize both in vivo and in vitro approaches in large animal models of disease.

This page was last modified on June 8, 2020