Judy M. Delp, Ph.D.
Research in my laboratory focuses on determining the effects of aging on the microvasculature of skeletal muscle and the heart. Because control of blood flow is largely determined by the resistance vasculature, it is critical to identify old age-related changes in reactivity of the resistance vessels in these vascular beds. In order to examine these changes in vascular reactivity, we utilize a rodent aging model and a large portion of our work is performed using an isolated arteriole preparation. We use this preparation to study both cellular signaling pathways and mechanical properties of resistance arterioles. We have also developed techniques to assess the effects of aging on gene expression in single resistance arterioles.
In the skeletal muscle microcirculation, we have documented that age alters the reactivity of both vascular smooth muscle and the endothelium, and we have an ongoing interest in determining whether age-related alterations of resistance vessel reactivity can be reversed with aerobic exercise training. We have found that decreased myogenic reactivity and endothelial impairment that occurs in arterioles from old rats can be ameliorated with twelve weeks of exercise training. Future research interests focus on distinguishing between cellular signaling pathways that are altered by primary aging and cellular mechanisms that are affected by age-associated reductions in physical activity.
In the coronary microcirculation, we are interested in determining whether age-related alterations of vascular reactivity are gender specific. Because the risk for cardiovascular disease increases with age, it is important to determine whether age-related changes in arteriolar reactivity potentially contribute to the development of coronary artery disease. Evidence in both humans and animal models suggests that age-related changes in the cardiovascular system are gender specific; however, little is know about coronary microvascular changes that occur with age in either males or females. A major focus of our ongoing research in the coronary microcirculation is to determine how age and estrogen status affect the coronary resistance vasculature.