Mechanisms of calcium waves and their contribution to vasomotion in the cerebral circulation

Calcium that is released from one part of a smooth muscle cell can sometimes travel along the length of the same cell in a wave-like manner. This phenomenon is known as a calcium wave. Under certain conditions, a calcium wave can synchronize with other calcium waves from neighbouring cells to cause rhythmic contractions of blood vessels, known as vasomotion. Why vasomotion occurs is not completely understood, but it may be important in controlling blood flow in small diameter blood vessels, such as the cerebral arteries in the brain. Cerebral arteries regulate the flow of blood to working areas of the brain, but this flow is compromised during conditions such as stroke, hypertension or diabetes. There is evidence that the frequency of vasomotion is affected in these conditions. Harley Syyong is studying vasomotion and its underlying mechanisms. Using both molecular and ultrastructural methods, he is exploring the contribution of calcium waves to vasomotion. This research will explore how calcium waves are generated, their role in vasomotion and how the physical structure of the cell supports their propagation. This project is laying the groundwork for future studies to examine how the underlying mechanisms of vasomotion are affected during pathological conditions such as stroke, hypertension and diabetes. Ultimately, this may lead to new drug therapies for treatment of these conditions.