Professor Jean Hardwick's lab studies how the nervous system changes with disease. Student researchers look at changes in neurotransmitter expression in different parts of the nervous system in healthy tissue versus tissue from animals with chronic heart disease.
Professor Hardwick writes:
My research focuses on neuronal regulation of cardiac function.
Specifically, I am interested in how neurotransmitters (chemicals released by nerve cells to communicate with one another) can modulate the activity of neurons located within the heart which in turn regulate heart rate and the strength of heart contractions. Most recently, the research in my lab is examining how chronic heart disease can alter the function of the neurons that regulate the heart. We are able to create a surgical model of a myocardial infarction (a blocked coronary blood vessel) in the guinea pig. After a recovery period, we study the electrical responses of intracardiac neurons to specific neurotransmitters to look for changes in neuronal function induced by the disease process. We are also studying phenotypic changes in these neurons, such as changes in specfic protein expression. To investigate these questions, I make use of several different neurobiological techniques, including immunohistochemistry, electrophysiology, and biochemistry.