Funded by the British Heart Foundation, my laboratory conducts research on the physiology of small arterial blood vessels. We use a wide number of techniques to investigate, at the molecular, cellular and intact tissue levels, how the contraction of the muscular walls of small arteries is regulated.
In health, our cardiovascular system manages a Herculean task; supplying the tissues of the body with arterial blood and returning venous and lymphatic drainage to the heart. The muscular wall of small arteries exists in a state of partial contraction, from which it can relax or contract further in order to alter the calibre of the artery and so regulate the flow of blood. Our goal has consistently been to explain control mechanisms in normal healthy tissue. There is good evidence that small arteries behave aberrantly in a wide range of disease states, including essential and pulmonary hypertension, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease. Small arterial dysfunction may not be the root cause, but a robust understanding of how such vessels are regulated in health may facilitate development of rational drug therapies for the management of vascular diseases.
Often, our work focuses on how ion channels regulate excitation, but more recently we have begun to consider the possibility that accumulation of sodium in smooth muscle cells may determine excitability as well as sensitivity to adrenoceptor stimulation; a phenomenon that has been described previously, but for which there is presently no mechanistic understanding. Other work focuses on the origin and mechanism of the myogenic response to pressure of small arterial vessels, something that is fundamental to the normal function of the cardiovascular system.