The Applied Physiology Laboratory is a 845 square foot space located on the fourth floor of the Des Moines University Clinic building.  This laboratory examines peripheral autonomic and microvascular function in humans. This area of research utilizes an in vivo approach to investigate the mechanisms of how cutaneous vessels respond to local or whole-body thermal stimuli. The utility of measuring vascular reactivity in the skin extends to 1) understanding thermoregulatory mechanisms, 2) an accessible means of studying general microvascular function, and 3) a prognostic indicator of cardiovascular disease since alterations in microvasculature function often precedes more systemic impairment with cardiovascular disease states.

Applied Physiology Research Faculty

Current Projects

  • Blood Flow in Aged Skin:
    • Aim: Determining why microvascular function is reduced in older individuals
    • Background: Cutaneous vasoconstrictor and vasodilator mechanisms are blunted in older individuals. Not only does this have implications for susceptibility to cold- and heat-related illness, but it may also portend the progression of vascular dysfunction.  Our objective is to target key mechanisms that contribute to this impairment in aged skin and identify strategies to preserve vascular function.
  • Cotransmitter Function in Young Skin:
    • Aim: Identify the substance(s) responsible for eliciting nearly half of the reflex vasoconstriction response in young individuals.
    • Background: Reflex cutaneous vasoconstriction to whole-body cold stress is mediated by sympathetic adrenergic activation. Although, norepinephrine release from these nerve terminals explains ~60% of this response, the identity of the sympathetic cotransmitter(s) that explains the remaining ~40% is unclear.  Our objective is to identify this cotransmitter substance and how the function of this pathway may be altered with aging or vascular disease.
  • Tyrosine and Sympathetic Responsivity to Stress:
    • Aim: Tyrosine supplementation may improve physiological resistance to environmental stress
    • Background: Previous research indicates that L-tyrosine improves psychomotor function for soldiers in the field as well as potentially augmenting vasoconstrictor function in older adults. The purpose of this project is to examine tyrosine supplementation as a strategy to augment adrenergic function is response to cold and exercise stress.

Laboratory Capabilities

  • Assessing microvascular function
  • Exercise testing
  • Blood pressure control mechanisms
  • Thermoregulatory function
  • Metabolic testing & VO2 kinetics

Laboratory Equipment

  • Laser Doppler flowmetry
  • SunTech Tango M2 BP monitor
  • Cardiotachometer
  • BASi microdialysis system
  • ADInstruments data acquisition
  • Parvomedics metabolic cart
  • Velotron cycle ergometer