The Cardiovascular group
The overall aim of our research is to gain knowledge regarding the basal regulation of the human cardiovascular system with a particular focus on regulation of vascular tone and vascular growth in the microcirculation of skeletal muscle. We also have a main emphasis on understanding by what mechanisms physical activity, life style related disease and aging affect cardiovascular function and growth.
Skeletal muscle blood flow regulation
Blood flow to the skeletal muscle can increase over 100-fold to accommodate the need for oxygen during muscular work. Blood flow is increased by dilatation of the arterioles supplying the muscle, a process which is highly complex and involves a large number of mechanisms and compounds. Our work in this area lies within basic science and focuses on improving the understanding of precisely how the different mechanisms act and interact to allow for the precise delivery of oxygen to the muscle.
Vascular function and the role of physical acivity, lifestyle related disease and aging
Physical inactivity and poor nutrition can lead to life style related diseases that are associated with reduced cardiovascular health with impairments occurring both in the function of the heart and of the blood vessels. Similar effects are observed with aging, and in particular when aging is coupled to insufficient physical activity. In our research we aim at understanding more precisely how a poor life style and inactive aging affects the heart and the blood vessels. Our interest in this area covers both men and women and includes aspects from physiological function to detailed molecular mechanisms.
Regulation of growth and regression of capillaries in health and cardiovascular disease
In skeletal muscle the density of the smallest blood vessels, capillaries, is important for optimal diffusion conditions of oxygen but also nutrients, e.g. glucose for muscular work and for removal of metabolic waste products, such as lactate. The density of capillaries in skeletal muscle is highly dependent on the degree of muscle activity where endurance training increases capillarization and an inactive life style decreases capillarization. Our research aims to understand regulation of muscle growth and elucidate how the level of physical activity influences capillary growth and what mechanical and chemical signals that are important for this process. Our research interest in this area includes also the impact of cardiovascular disease on capillary growth and function with a particular focus on a) conditions of severe atherosclerosis leading to peripheral arterial disease and b) the role of capillaries for insulin sensitivity.
The effect of physical activity on platelet function
Platelets are small cell fragments in the blood that are involved in clotting of blood and the repair of blood vessels. In a healthy cardiovascular system the activation of platelets is well regulated through a balance between factors promoting and inhibiting platelet activation. However, in cardiovascular disease this regulation can become off-balance and lead to the formation of blood clots that can cause serious cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Our research in this area concerns the role of physical activity on platelet function and, in particular, how physical activity and ischemic preconditioning affects platelet function and blood clot formation in healthy individuals and in individuals at risk.
Head of research group
Professor Ylva Hellsten