Although the Department of Anesthesiology is involved in many clinical studies of investigational drugs, medical-monitoring devices, clinical techniques and biomedical mechanisms, many of its research projects involve the causes of cardiovascular disease:
- Following several lines of research, we are investigating system response during disease states by purine receptors and C-reactive proteins.
- Myocardial Impedance Device, invented by our department, allows real-time assessment of myocardial ischemia and graft viability. This simple, minimally invasive device is capable of determining changes in ischemia in a single minute and has already been used to test graft viability prior to the end of surgery, avoiding serious cardiovascular complications and improving patient safety and recovery while reducing the incidence of repeat surgeries due to ineffective grafts. We are also pursuing this technology for very rapid detection of acute rejection of the transplanted heart.
- Another cardiac investigation is determining the effects of downregulation of b-receptors in heart failure and their influence on clinical management.
- The nervous system is also an area of investigation. One study involves brain activation caused by pain and the signal attenuation over time within activated areas of the brain. The amount and duration of pain signal attenuation over time was examined. We found significant differences between pain and tingling in the ipsilateral cerebellum, contralateral thalamus, secondary somatosensory cortex, primary somatosensory cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex. Highly significant signal decay was found to exist across each single pain task, but the signal was found to be restored after a 4-minute rest period. This work shows that serial pain tasks can be used for functional magnetic resonance imaging studies using electrical nerve stimulation as a stimulus, as long as sufficient time is allowed between the two tasks.
- Another line of investigation involves the gastrointestinal nervous system (the human enteric nervous system). In this research, we are determining the effects of histamine on gastric mobility and complications in bowel disease by establishing the mechanisms by which histamine alters nerve function. We are establishing the localization of specific histaminergic receptor subtypes to functionally identified neurons in the human enteric nervous system.
Exciting research opportunities exist in these areas for students, postdoctoral researchers, residents, basic researchers or medical scientists.