Human Cardiovascular Control

"Physiology of today is the medicine of tomorrow"

Dr. Minson researches how human cardiovascular control is affected by human health and disease

What do I study?

Here's a brief overview of my research program in human cardiovascular control ¾¾®

I am also head of the Department of Physiology and co-director of the Evonuk Environmental Physiology Core

What have I published?

Where are my graduates?

Dr. Christopher Minson’s research focuses on topics related to women’s health, physiology of the skin, and the acute and adaptive responses to environmental extremes. Cardiovascular health, studied through various models of endothelial, vascular, and microvascular function, is the overarching theme in much of his research.

Women’s Vascular Health
Estrogen and progesterone can work independently, together, and antagonistically on the endothelium – depending on their form and levels in the body. Current birth control and hormone therapy treatments utilize varied combinations of both natural and synthetic estrogens and progestogens. Despite widespread use of birth control and hormone therapy, the effects of these exogenous hormones on vascular regulation are not fully understood. Physiological maturity (pre-menopausal, post-menopausal) and underlying health conditions (such as insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, or obesity) can impact the vascular responses to estrogen and progesterone. Dr. Minson’s research team is currently investigating the independent and combined roles of estrogen and progesterone in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, studying both overweight and lean populations. His team also investigates how the sympathetic nervous system contributes to vascular function and health in women, including how an increased sympathetic overdrive could lead to deleterious effects on cardiovascular and endocrine health.

The skin allows for the study of the microvasculature in humans in a relatively non-invasive manner. Dr. Minson utilizes the techniques of laser Doppler flowmetry paired with intradermal microdialysis to understand the mechanisms underlying the control of skin blood flow. In current and recent studies, we have been exploring the skin’s response to local heating and post-occlusive reactive hyperemia – including examining whether these stimuli can be used as clinical tests of microcirculatory health in humans. A current goal is to pair the microdialysis technique with proteomic approaches to identify novel neurotransmitters involved in regulation of vascular tone in the skin.

Exercise and Environmental Physiology
Exercise and changes in environmental conditions place stress on the body, triggering physiological responses. Studying the mechanisms of heat, cold and altitude acclimation provide insight into the body’s ability- or inability - to induce and sustain internal adaptations. Dr. Minson’s team uses a state-of-the-art environmental chamber to simulate exposure to various environmental conditions. By pairing exercise with environmental stress in healthy populations, we can test the limits of physiological adaptation. For example, recent research in our lab has shown that exercise performance in highly trained athletes can be improved following a period of heat acclimation, even when exercise is performed in a cool environment. This work also has implications for patient populations, in which they don’t tolerate changes in environmental conditions. Finally, it is possible that exposure to environmental challenges may cause adaptations in patients that improve their health or allow them to gain the most benefit from exercise. This is an exciting area of research that is relatively unexplored.

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