Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Nikolaos Tsoukias

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Chenzhong Li

Third Advisor's Name

Yen-Chih Huang

Fourth Advisor's Name

Konstantinos Kavallieratos


Microcirculation, Nitric Oxide, Ca2+, Blood Pressure, Hypertension

Date of Defense



Hypertension, a major risk factor in the cardiovascular system, is characterized by an increase in the arterial blood pressure. High dietary sodium is linked to multiple cardiovascular disorders including hypertension. Salt sensitivity, a measure of how the blood pressure responds to salt intake is observed in more than 50% of the hypertension cases. Nitric Oxide (NO), as an endogenous vasodilator serves many important biological roles in the cardiovascular physiology including blood pressure regulation. The physiological concentrations for NO bioactivity are reported to be in 0-500 nM range. Notably, the vascular response to NO is highly regulated within a small concentration spectrum. Hence, much uncertainty surrounds how NO modulates diverse signaling mechanisms to initiate vascular relaxation and alleviate hypertension.

Regulating the availability of NO in the vasculature has demonstrated vasoprotective effects. In addition, modulating the NO release by different means has proved to restore endothelial function. In this study we addressed parameters that regulated NO release in the vasculature, in physiology and pathophysiology such as salt sensitive hypertension. We showed that, in the rat mesenteric arterioles, Ca2+ induced rapid relaxation (time constants 20.8 ± 2.2 sec) followed with a much slower constriction after subsequent removal of the stimulus (time constants 104.8 ± 10.0 sec). An interesting observation was that a fourfold increase in the Ca2+ frequency improved the efficacy of arteriolar relaxation by 61.1%. Our results suggested that, Ca2+ frequency-dependent transient release of NO from the endothelium carried encoded information; which could be translated into different steady state vascular tone. Further, Agmatine, a metabolite of L-arginine, as a ligand, was observed to relax the mesenteric arterioles. These relaxations were NO-dependent and occurred via α-2 receptor activity. The observed potency of agmatine (EC50, 138.7 ± 12.1 µM; n=22), was 40 fold higher than L-arginine itself (EC50, 18.3 ± 1.3 mM; n = 5). This suggested us to propose alternative parallel mechanism for L-arginine mediated vascular relaxation via arginine decarboxylase activity. In addition, the biomechanics of rat mesentery is important in regulation of vascular tone. We developed 2D finite element models that described the vascular mechanics of rat mesentery. With an inverse estimation approach, we identified the elasticity parameters characterizing alterations in normotensive and hypertensive Dahl rats.

Our efforts were towards guiding current studies that optimized cardiovascular intervention and assisted in the development of new therapeutic strategies. These observations may have significant implications towards alternatives to present methods for NO delivery as a therapeutic target. Our work shall prove to be beneficial in assisting the delivery of NO in the vasculature thus minimizing the cardiovascular risk in handling abnormalities, such as hypertension.





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