- Research Assistant Professor
Oscar Vivas, Ph.D., is a Junior Faculty in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington. Dr. Vivas is interested in understanding how aging alters the autonomic nervous system. Why the autonomic nervous system? As we age, we perceive a decline in our ability to maintain constant internal conditions (homeostasis) at rest and under stressful conditions. Here are some examples. Thermoregulation is challenging, blood pressure is hardly controlled, heart rate decreases and cannot keep up with vigorous activity, and even simple tasks like salivation and urination become challenges. The autonomic nervous system innervates every organ; hence, it controls the physiological processes in charge of thermoregulation, blood pressure, and so on. In other words, the autonomic nervous system’s function is to coordinate the homeostatic mechanisms. The deterioration caused by aging leads to the detriment of the coordination of homeostatic mechanisms necessary to keep constant conditions at rest and under stress. Moreover, further deterioration can lead to age-related pathologies. Dr. Vivas’s team attempts to find answers to the following questions: Is aging a perturbation factor for which the autonomic nervous system can respond? When does aging become a stressor for which the autonomic nervous system cannot compensate? What are the cellular and molecular properties of the autonomic neurons altered by aging? Dr. Vivas’s research team combines large-scale proteomics, lipid profiling, single-cell electrophysiology, high-resolution microscopy, and molecular biology to address these questions. He trained as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the laboratories of Dr. Bertil Hille and Dr. Eamonn Dickson. His scientific contributions include the understanding of the regulation of ion channels by toxins, receptors, growth factors, and phosphoinositides in health and disease.