Swapnil Sonkusare, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics and UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center, was awarded a $2.1 million grant to study calcium signaling in smooth muscle cells and its contribution to elevated blood pressure in hypertension.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, hypertension or high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of more than 690,000 deaths in the United States in 2021, and nearly half of American adults have hypertension. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
Blood pressure is controlled, in part, by calcium levels in smooth muscle cells that line blood vessel walls. Smooth muscle cells transport calcium in and use it to regulate the contraction of blood vessels. Dr. Sonkusare and colleagues recently identified new signaling centers in smooth muscle cell membranes that bring in calcium and regulate blood pressure. Read more about this discovery here.
Dr. Sonkusare’s proposed research will provide in-depth knowledge about the proteins that enable calcium entry at these signaling centers, their signaling partners, and their contribution to elevated blood pressure in hypertension. The overall goal is to identify new therapeutic targets for limiting the harmful effects of calcium in hypertension, but not its beneficial effects.