Visiting Professor in Pharmacology
- Chair and University Distinguished Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Univerity of Vermont
Professor Mark Nelson has a BA in Mathematics and Biology with Honors Tufts University in Massachusetts and a PhD in Neural Sciences from Washington University in St Louis. He has held fellowships and academic appointments at the University of Maryland, Universität Konstanz in West Germany and the University of Miami School of Medicine before moving to the University of Vermont in 1986.
The overall goal of the research in Professor Nelson's laboratory is to understand the control of smooth muscle and endothelial cell function by ion channels and calcium signaling.
There are three major research areas in the lab:
- To understand the mechanisms by which computationally active neurons in the brain control local cerebral blood flow (CBF) ("neurovascular coupling"), using optical techniques to measure calcium signaling and arteriolar diameter in the neurovascular unit (neurons, astrocytes, arteriolar smooth muscle and endothelium) in brain slices as well as CBF in vivo, electrophysiological techniques to measure membrane currents and membrane potential of astrocytes, smooth muscle and endothelial cells from parenchymal arterioles. Arteriolar diameter is also measured in isolated pressurized parenchymal arterioles.
- To understand how sympathetic nerves, smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells communicate ("vascular crosstalk") to control the function of resistance-sized peripheral arteries.
- To understand the roles of ion channels and calcium signaling in the control of urinary bladder function in health and disease.
Approaches cover the spectrum from molecular, cellular, intact tissue, whole organ and in vivo (local CBF, blood pressure, urodynamics). A number of genetic mouse models are used to unravel control mechanisms. Relevant ion channels in smooth muscle, endothelium and astrocytes are being explored, including voltage-dependent calcium channels, inward rectifier potassium channels, calcium-sensitive BK, IK, SK channels, voltage-dependent potassium channels, ATP-sensitive potassium channels, TRPV4 channels, ryanodine receptor channels, IP3R channels, and P2X1 receptor channels. The ultimate objections are to understand the basic mechanisms for ion channel control of local cerebral blood flow, peripheral resistance and urinary bladder function, and using this information to understand pathologies and possible new therapeutic interventions.