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International Society of Hypertension

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November 2011 Spotlight - Justin L. Grobe

Justin L. Grobe

Department of Pharmacology
University of Iowa
3181 MERF, 375 Newton Rd.
Iowa City, IA 52242. USA

Current Position:

2010-present         Associate (a pre-tenure track faculty position); I am currently seeking/negotiating a tenure-track, Assistant Professor position

Previous Training/Positions:

2001                      B.S. (Biology) & B.A. (Chemistry) – Hope College, Holland, MI

2006                      Ph.D. (Pharmacodynamics) – University of Florida College of Pharmacy, Gainesville, FL

2006-2010             Postdoctoral Fellow (Internal Medicine, and Pharmacology) – University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

When did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?

As an undergraduate I worked in the laboratory of Christopher C. Barney, Ph.D. (Hope College), on projects focused on (1) modulation of the brain renin-angiotensin system during long-term thermal acclimation, and (2) the role of a novel vasopressin receptor (VACM-1, now known as cullin-5) in blood pressure regulation.  From those projects I had the opportunity to attend Experimental Biology conferences and secured undergraduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the American Heart Association.  I was hooked! 

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

Currently my research focuses on mechanisms of blood pressure, hydromineral balance, and metabolic regulation by the brain renin-angiotensin system.  We have demonstrated that the efferent mechanisms regulating each of these endpoints are distinct, and have discovered some novel mechanisms for metabolic rate control.  The eventual goal will be to identify therapeutic techniques to selectively modulate blood pressure and metabolism independently.

How did you know about ISH and its activities?

As the Chair of the Trainee Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research Council, my primary interactions with the ISH have come from interacting with my counterparts in the ISH informally, and while coordinating trainee-specific activities at the joint AHA/ISH/IASH conference in 2011.  I look forward to becoming more involved in this outstanding group of hypertension researchers.

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

Using the semi-objective measure of manuscript citations, my primary scientific contributions to hypertension research have come from my dissertation project while working at the University of Florida in the laboratories of Michael J. Katovich, Ph.D. and his collaborators Mohan K. Raizada, Ph.D. and Colin Sumners, Ph.D.  Specifically, my papers assessing the cardioprotective effects of ACE2 and angiotensin-(1-7) in models of elevated (PMID: 16049057, 17098828) and (more importantly?) suppressed (PMID: 16415071) plasma renin-angiotensin system activity have all garnered between 50-80 citations each, within the first five years after publication.  Collectively, these projects demonstrated that the actions of angiotensin-(1-7) are sufficient to protect the heart from pathological remodeling regardless of what is happening with angiotensin II.  Further, these papers help bolster the argument that elevated blood pressure itself (which is unaffected by low dose angiotensin-(1-7)) is not really a health concern if end-organ damage can be prevented (which angiotensin-(1-7) does).  In all, my dissertation project resulted in ten publications, of which I ‘first-authored’ five.  I hope my ongoing projects can keep up with that pace!

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

Experimental Biology 1999 was my first major scientific conference, and I was happy to first present a poster at EB2000.  It was a great experience to attend, and even better to present.  I think every undergraduate considering a career in research should have the opportunity to attend a real conference and present their data.

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

I look forward to attending the 2012 Gordon Research Conference on Angiotensin in February, Experimental Biology 2012 in April, and the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research conference next fall.  The furthest I have ever traveled for a conference was to attend a ‘Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB)’ meeting in Groningen (the Netherlands), some years ago.

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

My favorite paper (and my most often cited, recently) is a classic from 1986.  Itaya et al. (PMID: 3526927) demonstrated that the hypertension in rats treated with DOCA-salt could be prevented and reversed by ICV infusion of the ACE inhibitor captopril, thus providing some of the first (and exciting!) data to support a primary role for the brain renin-angiotensin system in the pathogenesis of DOCA-salt hypertension (which is, notably, a low plasma-renin model of hypertension).  Other groups have subsequently demonstrated similar results using central infusion of ACE inhibitors and AT1 receptor antagonists in many models of hypertension beyond the DOCA-salt model. 

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

My research techniques sit at the boundary between classic pharmacological and physiological techniques and cutting-edge transgenic animal models.  Leveraging my training in classic physiology with genetically-modified animal model systems that could not even be dreamed of 40 years ago really allows me to answer lingering, important questions from our many predecessors’ laudable achievements.  For example, using Cre-Lox mediated gene recombination techniques, we can now selectively assess the importance of specific neurotransmitter signaling mechanisms within individual nuclei of the brain for blood pressure, fluid balance, and metabolic regulation – while previous investigators were stuck using non-selective, extremely disruptive and destructive lesioning techniques. 

Describe your most memorable (proudest) moment in research so far?

Pride is probably a bad thing in science, but I can’t say I’m free of it.  My proudest research moment was probably the day I received the award notice for my ongoing K99/R00 “Pathway to Independence” award from NIH.  Receiving this award puts the cap on my formal training path, and will help me establish my own independent laboratory.  Further this award represents the largest and most prestigious award that I’ve received, but more importantly it is the latest fellowship in the uninterrupted fellowship funding that I’ve received since my freshman year as an undergraduate (fourteen years ago).  It has been a lot of hard work, and I am proud of the result!

What area of research do you wish you knew more about? Do you have any suggestions for other young scientists?

Science and the “hot topics” we chase are constantly changing, and thus one almost always feels like he/she is trying to catch up… so it is hard to narrow this down to one topic!  That said, right now I wish I knew a lot more about inflammation, cytokine signaling, etc. and their contribution to blood pressure regulation.  It seems clear to me that this is one area where blood pressure and metabolic control mechanisms overlap, and thus it will continue to be a major area of interest to our field for years.

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