The Vascular Physiology Group studies the blood vessel wall with respect to cellular signalling mechanisms, contractility, and cell differentiation. Cell types that are particularly investigated are the smooth muscle cells that cause vasoconstriction and the endothelial cells on the inside of the vascular wall that are important for its permeability and interaction with blood components. The differentiation and functional properties of smooth muscle cells depend on the cellular environment. Any disturbance of this, such as inflammation, lipid infiltration or damage to the endothelium, will lead to reactions that can initiate atherosclerotic lesions. Hypertension and blood lipid disturbances are important risk factors for vascular disease and are associated with growth and phenotype modulation of the muscle cells as well as with remodelling of the vascular wall. We study mechanisms involved in these processes, such as mechanical and hormonal influences, effects of diet components on blood lipids and vascular reactions, alterations in cell membrane properties, and the role of intracellular signal systems. The overriding goal is to define conditions that are essential for the normal function and cell differentiation in the vascular wall. This is hoped to generate new approaches to prevent vascular disease.
Key words: Smooth muscle, endothelium, vascular, cytoskeleton, ion channels, caveolae, cholesterol, oats, oestrogen, polyamines