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International Society of Hypertension

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December 2012/January 2013 Spotlight - Richard D. Wainford

Richard D. Wainford

Boston University School of Medicine
Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute
72 East Concord Street
Boston, MA 02118. USA

Current Position:

Assistant Professor

Previous Training/Positions:

2010-2011 Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

2008-2010 Instructor, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

2005-2008 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

When did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?

I became interested in Hypertension research during my post-doctoral studies when I first started working in the central nervous system and investigating the mechanisms that regulate blood pressure. 

Describe your research interest & the research program that you are in?

My laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute utilizes an integrated physiological, pharmacological, molecular, and gene-targeting in-vivo approach to investigate why certain individuals are resistant to dietary salt-induced increases in blood pressure. In normotensive, salt-resistant subjects, endogenous neural and renal sodium-retaining mechanisms are suppressed to counter the influence of dietary salt intake on blood pressure regulation. The brain pathways that control “salt-resistant” responses to high salt-intake involve activation of brain GPCRs and signal transduction via Gα-subunit proteins. Currently, the pathophysiological significance of brain Gα-proteins in anti-hypertensive pathways remains essentially unknown. My research program is designed to enhance the current understanding and theoretical modeling of brain GPCR mediated signal transduction mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of salt-sensitive hypertension. We have identified a previously unknown role of hypothalamic PVN Gαi2-subunit proteins in mediating the endogenous GPCR-activated pathways that regulate central sympathetic outflow (with particular focus on the renal sympathetic nerves), fluid and electrolyte homeostasis, and systemic blood pressure regulation to prevent the development of salt-sensitive hypertension.

How did you know about ISH and its activities?

I first became aware of the ISH through promotional material for the 2012 ISH meeting at national conferences. My first involvement with the New Investigator Network (NIN) was presenting at the first ISH New Investigators Symposium held in 2011. Over time, my appreciation and awareness of the activities and opportunities provided by the ISH and ISH NIN for junior investigators has only increased. I look forward to increasing my participation and involvement in both the ISH and the NIN to help ensure this valuable resource continues to grow and provide support and guidance for the next generation of new investigators in the hypertension field.

What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

I would consider my manuscript “Brain heterotrimeric Gαi2-subunit protein-gated pathways mediate central sympathoinhibition to maintain fluid and electrolyte homeostasis during stress” (PMID: 22459149) and my recently accepted manuscript “Central Nervous System Gαi2–Subunit Proteins Maintain Salt-resistance Via a Renal Nerve Dependent Sympathoinhibitory Pathway” (Hypertension, 2013, In Press) to be my most substantial scientific contributions so far. Both of these papers enhance our understanding of the central neural mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of salt-sensitive hypertension and provide continued support of the long established Guytonion hypothesis of an intimate connection between fluid and electrolyte homeostasis and the long-term regulation of blood pressure.

Which conference did you first attend & which one did you first present in?

The first conference that I attended was during my PhD studies, which I completed in the field of Molecular Pharmacology/Toxicology at the University of Aberdeen located in Scotland. This was the annual British Toxicology Society Meeting (BTS). My first poster presentation was at the 2001 annual BTS meeting and my first oral presentation was at the 2002 BTS conference. I think the experience of presenting as a graduate student, as either a poster or oral presentation is a great experience and really makes you focus your thinking and place your work in a wider context.

What upcoming conferences will you be attending and what is the furthest you have traveled for a conference?

I will be presenting at Experimental Biology and the American Society of Hypertension in the spring of 2013, in the summer of 2013 I will attend the IUPS meeting in the UK and in the fall I will attend the American Heart Association Council on High Blood Pressure Meeting in New Orleans. The furthest I have travelled for a conference is to Sydney to attend the 2012 ISH meeting.

What is your favourite manuscript from a lab other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

My current favourite manuscript is titled “Epigenetic modulation of the renal β-adrenergic-WNK4 pathway in salt-sensitive hypertension” by Mu et al., published in Nature Medicine 2011 17(5):573-580 PMID: 2149927.

What entity (i.e. equipment, patient population) is essential to your research?

A radiotelemetry recording system to continuously measure blood pressure and autonomic function is critical to my research program, as are metabolic cages to perform sodium balance studies and stereotaxic equipment to perform site-specific brain microinjections of drugs and viral vectors.

Describe your most memorable (proudest) moment and a challenging instance in your research career so far?

My most unforgettable moments in science are the receipt of the award notice for my R01 research grant and the offer letter from the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics at the Boston University School of Medicine of an Assistant Professor position. Both of these events marked the culmination of years of hard work and personal/professional development to reach the status of a fully independent researcher. The most challenging instance I have had to overcome was the disruption that occurred 5 months into my post-doctoral fellowship when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and caused widespread devastation and prolonged evacuation of both the city and the LSUHSC medical campus.

What area of research do you wish you knew more about?

The area of research I am most focused on expanding my research program into in the near future is translational research via conducting clinical studies in which I can move our studies from animal models of Hypertension into Hypertensive human patients.  To achieve this aim I am building collaborations with clinicians in multiple Departments at the Boston University School of Medicine to aid in study design, analysis and sample collection. All stages of which are very different to the day-to-day work as a basic science researcher.

Do you have any suggestions for other young scientists?

The best advice I can give is to work hard, enjoy what you do, don’t get disheartened by negative feedback on grants and enjoy every small success - be it acceptance for an oral presentation, a travel award, a fellowship award. The small successes make everything worthwhile and over time build your resume and career.

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