High blood pressure (hypertension) causes heart attack & stroke, which are primary causes of death in people with kidney disease. We believe the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling involuntary actions like heart rate and breathing, is key in linking hypertension, the heart and the kidney. Research within my team aims to understand how the sympathetic and parasympathetic arms of the autonomic nervous system control of the heart and blood pressure in the diseased state. Much of our work uses a model of renal failure (polycystic kidney disease, PKD) to understand this relationship. We hope that by determining the mechanisms that drive different phases of the disease we can develop diagnostic tests, key time points for intervention and targeted therapies.
The other area of our research is neuropathic pain. This is a difficult and costly health care problem and a common condition that is frequently misdiagnosed and difficult to treat. We believe that the sympathetic nervous system, which is not associated with pain under normal conditions, plays an important role. A disease of specific focus is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
Our research uses multiple approaches including molecular techniques assessing gene expression, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy to assess structure relative to function, protein levels and distribution patterns, and studies using animal models to measure physiological parameters such as nerve activity, blood pressure and heart rate.