Impact of chronic exposure to vascular stressors on mitochondrial health and vascular smooth muscle cell plasticity
Blood vessels are made up of specialized cells including the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels and smooth muscle cells (SMCs) that constrict vessels and regulate blood flow. SMCs are constantly exposed to diverse growth factors, hormones and inflammatory signals that affect their phenotype and function. Mitochondria are essential to the normal functioning of SMCs, and aging and inflammation can effect mitochondrial number, structure and function. Our lab is investigating the sensitivity of mitochondria to diverse stressors and the roles of mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial DNA mutations in promoting SMC proliferation and subsequent hypertension and cardiovascular disease. We are interested in Granzymes, enzymes released by the body’s immune cells, as mediators of the mitochondrial basis of vascular remodelling in response to chronic inflammation and thus their therapeutic potential. We are developing high-content microscopic assays to expedite this research, which we believe could be accelerated with a like-minded industrial partner.