My research focus is toward understanding the mechanisms underlying angiogenesis, which is the stimulation of new blood vessel growth. These new blood vessels have the potential to restore blood flow to previously ischemic muscle and skin, with the goal of reducing pain and tissue breakdown. In various animal models, we have shown nitric oxide (NO) to be critical for collateral growth by stimulating growth factor production and release. Under normal conditions, endothelial cells produce NO by enzymatic conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline by endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). In disease states, like atherosclerosis or diabetes, this enzyme is impaired, leading to reduced NO production and vascular dysfunction.
I have become increasingly interested in manipulating nitrite generated NO storage pools in the blood and tissue, with the purpose of restoring adequate NO levels in patients with impaired NOS function. Application of red light to nitrosyl hemoglobin and nitrosyl myoglobin increases NO levels and leads to increased collateral vessels, and vasodilatation. In addition to identifying the mediators involved in light induced vasodilatation, I am in the process of arranging a study in humans to use red light as a noninvasive therapy in patients affected by peripheral artery disease.