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Our Faculty

The Saint Louis University Department of Pharmacology and Physiology is made up of highly accomplished faculty and scholars who are widely recognized with awards, appointments to national committees and invitations to speak at international symposia.

Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D.

Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D.
William Beaumont Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Director of the Henry and Amelia Nasrallah Center for Neuroscience

Research Interests: Over 30 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from chronic neuropathic pain. Treatment for these patients is very difficult and current medications are limited by severe side effects and poor efficacy. Novel non-narcotic analgesics are needed. My lab uses state-of-the-art multidisciplinary approaches to unravel molecular pathways through which injury produces changes in the peripheral nerves and the central nervous system that lead to the transition of acute to chronic pain. We are also interested in understanding how opioids such as morphine, cause increase pain sensitivity (a phenomenon known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia) and analgesic tolerance (which refers to a loss of opioid efficacy) known to limit opioid’s efficacy and contributing to over-prescription and abuse. Our overarching goal is to identify novel non-opioid based targets for therapeutic intervention for the treatment of neuropathic pain ultimately impacting the lives of patients afflicted with this debilitating disease.  This translational approach has led to the identification of several targets, some of which are in clinical development and others in clinical trials.


Willis K. Samson, Ph.D., D.Sc.

Willis K. Samson, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Director of  School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Graduate Programs

Research Interests: Central Control of Metabolism, Reproduction and Cardiovascular Function.,  G Protein-Coupled Receptors, Pituitary Function, Ingestive Behavior


Michael Ariel, Ph.D.

Michael Ariel, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: My lab studies sensory information processing using a unique in vitro preparation of an intact brain. That brain tissue is removed from a pond turtle that is extremely resistant to the damaging effects of anoxia. Natural stimulation is presented to attached sense organs (the retina in the eye, the cochlear of the inner ear and the ampullae of labyrinthine semicircular canals in the temporal bone) while recording electrophysiological responses from brainstem neurons. The sensory responses are also measured in physiological media that lacks oxygen to evaluate the brain's ability to encode environmental cues during a turtle's wintering under the surface of a frozen pond in its prolonged cold season. These experiments reveal mechanisms of brain processing and the extent to which such processing is diminished during anoxia each winter.


Christopher Arnatt, Ph.D.

Christopher Arnatt, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor Department of Chemistry
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests:  The core theme of Dr. Arnett's research revolves around using organic chemistry to decipher cellular processes and disease states. He has illustrated that by using bioorganic techniques, modern synthetic organic chemistry can be applied to make small molecules that are targeted towards any specific process or protein, which can significantly impact their study. Specifically, he is developing novel small molecule chemical probes and fluorescent probes to help study biological systems. His research for the next five years will focus on nuclear proteins and DNA modifications as they pertain to cancer and stem cell biology.


Joseph Baldassare, Ph.D.

Joseph Baldassare, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor


Andrew A. Butler, Ph.D.

Andrew A. Butler, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: My research interests are in the general area of the integrative physiology of obesity and diabetes. I have published original research articles on the role of melanocortin receptors expressed in the nervous system. The "central nervous melanocortin system" is the canonical neural circuit that integrates signals of energy balance secreted from adipose tissues, the GI tract and pancreas to govern appetite and metabolism. My research has contributed to our knowledge of two melanocortin receptors expressed in the nervous system, one of which (MC4R) is a target for developing drugs against obesity., My current research focuses on a novel "micropeptide" involved in the control of liver metabolism and healthy aging of the nervous system. Proteogenomics has identified over a thousand small open reading frames (sORF) encoding proteins less than 100 amino acids in size. We identified a micropeptide named adropin. Our research focuses on the role of the micropeptide in regulating glucose and fatty acid metabolism in the liver and skeletal muscle. We are also investigating whether this micropeptide is a potential lead for developing treatments for cognitive impairment associated with aging and metabolic disease.


Anutosh Chakraborty, Ph.D.

Anutosh Chakraborty, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Research Interests: The prevalence of obesity has increased globally and in the US. Obesity and type-2 diabetes also greatly increase the risk of various other diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease/steatohepatitis (NAFLD/NASH), osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, neurodegeneration, and cancer. Pathways that reduce body fat and insulin resistance are being targeted to treat these diseases. The long-term goal of my lab is to define the mechanisms of these processes for rational drug development. A related goal is to identify and validate novel targets in these diseases. We discovered the inositol pyrophosphate biosynthetic enzyme IP6K1 as a novel target in obesity and type-2 diabetes. Thus, pharmacologic inhibition of IP6K1 should improve human health by boosting metabolism. The ongoing research is to determine cell- and tissue-specific mechanisms by which IP6K1 causes metabolic diseases and to develop IP6K1 inhibitors to treat these diseases. Moreover, we identified several other novel proteins that regulate obesity and insulin resistance, which are currently being characterized in detail.


John C. Chrivia, Ph.D.

John C. Chrivia, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: The overall research interest of my laboratory is to understand mechanisms regulating transcription of genes. In particular, we are interested in understanding the role that chromatin structure plays in this process. Using biochemical and molecular biology approaches, we are examining the ability of the SRCAP chromatin remodeling complex to regulate gene expression. One conclusion of our recent studies is that the SRCAP complex regulates transcription, in part by depositing the histone variant H2A.Z into nucleosomes and, in part, through an unknown activity. On going studies suggest this activity may be due to the ability of SRCAP to recruit the transcription elongation factor pTEFb to promoters. A second interest of the laboratory is to determine if targeted disruption of SRCAP function can be used to control growth of some tumor cells.


Ian de Vera, Ph.D.

Ian de Vera, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Research Interests: Our lab focuses on drug discovery targeting orphan nuclear receptors. Using a combination of high-throughput biophysical screening, LC-MS, NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography, our goal is to find new drugs for various pathological conditions, such as cancer and neurological disorders. Our lab specializes in a diverse arsenal of biophysical techniques to determine the affinity, thermodynamics and kinetics of nuclear receptor-ligand interactions, which will guide the design of drug analogues. These techniques include multidimensional protein NMR, isothermal titration calorimetry, surface plasmon resonance, time-resolved FRET, fluorescence polarization, differential scanning fluorimetry and cell-based techniques. Using a metabolomics approach, we identify possible endogenous ligands that bind orphan nuclear receptors, and subsequently map their binding site and characterize the dynamics of the interaction using structural elucidation techniques, such as X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. We also perform in silico molecular docking of ligand libraries to determine which drug-like molecular scaffolds fit into the pocket, which could corroborate the positive hits identified in the high-throughput biophysical screening.


Timothy Doyle, Ph.D.

Timothy Doyle, Ph.D.
Associate Research Professor

Research Interests:  We study the pathophysiological and signaling mechanisms (e.g. glutamatergic signaling, neuroinflammation and nitro-oxidative stress) common to the development of cognitive impairment, chronic pain of various etiologies and opioid-induced tolerance and hyperalgesia (OIH) to identify and develop potential novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of these largely unmet medical needs. We use a number of molecular, biochemical, proteomic and cellular methods to identify transcriptional and signaling changes within peripheral and central nervous tissues and cell culture models.


John C. Edwards, M.D., Ph.D.

John C. Edwards, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Internal Medicine - Nephrology
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests: CLIC family of chloride channels, acidification of intracellular compartments, mechanisms of angiogenesis and intracellular tubulogenesis, role of ApoL1 in progression of chronic kidney disease. Hyperkalemia and arrhythmias in dialysis patients.


Terrance M. Egan, Ph.D.

Terrance M. Egan, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: We study the physiology and pharmacology of primary human microglia and macrophages maintained in culture and tissue slices. We are particularly interested in the ability of purines to initiate and/or modulate the innate immune response in these cells with particular emphasis on the role of ATP and P2X7 receptor ion channels. We use a range of techniques including voltage-clamp electrophysiology (to study transmembrane currents), patch-clamp photometry (to quantify changes in intracellular calcium), immunocytochemistry, and methods of molecular biology.


Susan A. Farr, Ph.D.

Susan A. Farr, Ph.D.
Professor of Internal Medicine - Geriatrics
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests:  Age-related dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. Risk factors for age-related dementia such as traumatic brain injury, diabetes, and chemobrain


Koyal Garg, Ph.D.

Koyal Garg, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests:  Cell and tissue engineering, extracellular matrix based biomaterials, stem cells, immune response, skeletal muscle and neuromuscular junctions. Aged or severely injured skeletal muscle is associated with reduced regenerative capacity and force production. Contributing factors include loss of functional contractile tissue and neuromuscular junctions, heightened inflammation, excessive collagen deposition and dysfunctional stem cells. The primary motive of Garg’s research is to develop biomaterial and stem cell based therapies for improving the regenerative and functional capacity of skeletal muscle following injury, disease or aging.


Ajay K. Jain, M.D.

Ajay K. Jain, M.D., DNB 
Associate Division Chief,
Director, MD/PhD Program, School of Medicine,
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Physiology,
Section Head, Pediatric Nutrition, Medical Director, Pediatric Liver Transplantation,
Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition,
SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center,  Saint Louis University
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests:  My research interests include pediatric liver diseases and nutrition. Our lab evaluates strategies targeting liver and gut injury noted in short bowel syndrome (SBS) which results from bowel resection or lack of functional gut. Enteral nutrition (EN) cannot sustain nutritional needs and such patients require intravenous nutrition through a process called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). TPN is used worldwide as a common and critical therapy in SBS and its use has grown enormously over the last few decades. Despite being a life saver, complications in SBS, include life threatening and potentially fatal liver and gut injury. While the etiology of such injury is likely multifactorial, recent evidence, including our results point to an alteration of gut derived signaling, due to a lack of EN (luminal contents) as occurs is SBS driving such injury. We hypothesize that in SBS, a lack of EN disrupts the normal enterohepatic circulation of bile acids (BA) resulting in inadequate activation of gut Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) and a decreased synthesis of Fibroblast Growth Factor 19, which regulates hepatic bile acid (BA) synthesis, lipid and glucose homeostasis. Thus, restoration of FGF19 or enteral gut FXR agonists in SBS would mitigate injury. Our data also suggests that during TPN (lack of EN) there is a decrease in Glucagon like Peptides (GLPs). While GLP-1 regulates insulin, glucose homeostasis and hepatic steatosis, GLP-2 is a known gut tropic protein. Since GLPs are modulated via the G protein-coupled receptor TGR5 we hypothesize that a lack of TGR5 regulation in SBS drives injury and such can be prevented by dual GLP-1/GLP-2 therapy and by gut TGR5 activation. Additionally, further implicating the role of luminal signaling, we have noted significant alterations in the gut microbial colonies in SBS animals on TPN. Since gut microbes can transform primary BA (FXR ligands) to secondary BA (TGR5 ligands), microbial shifts can modulate FXR-FGF19, TGR5-GLP signals and alter key hepatobiliary receptors, transporters contributing to injury.


Mark M. Knuepfer, Ph.D.

Mark M. Knuepfer, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: Autonomic Neuroscience, Cardiovascular Regulation, Renal Denervation as a Treatment for Hypertension, Stress Responsiveness, Responses to Psychostimulants, Sensory Neuroscience, Pain Modulation


Grant Kolar, M.D., Ph.D.

Grant Kolar, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Pathology
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology


Andrew Lechner, Ph.D.

Andrew Lechner, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: Oxygen Transport, Erythrocyte Biology, All Aspects of Respiratory Physiology, Extreme Environments of Heat, Cold, and High Altitude, Sepsis, Septic Shock, Acute Lung Injury, Immuno-Pathophysiology of Multiple Organ Failure, Cytokine Biology, Host Defense Functions of the Lung


Heather Macarthur, Ph.D.

Heather Macarthur, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: Vascular Control and Dysfunction in Hypertension and other Disease States. Role of Oxidative Stress in Disease States. Neurodegeneration.

Teaching Interests: Autonomic physiology and pharmacology, vascular physiology and pharmacology, neurotransmission, neurodegeneration, neuropharmacology, general principles of physiology and pharmacology


R. Scott Martin, Ph.D.

R. Scott Martin, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests: Research in the Martin group has been focused on using microchip technology to study cellular systems in a manner where an analysis scheme can be integrated to study the release of neurotransmitters in close to real time.  We feel that this approach will allow us to use in vitro models to study the processes that lead to disease onset by studying cell-to-cell interaction on a molecular level and in a quantitative fashion.


Andy Nguyen, Ph.D.

Andy Nguyen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine - Geriatrics
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests: Our lab studies progranulin – a protein linked to frontotemporal dementia (FTD) – and how its deficiency causes neurodegeneration. We are currently testing strategies (including antisense oligonucleotides) for increasing progranulin levels as potential therapies for progranulin-deficient FTD. We are also investigating progranulin’s structure and function using a variety of molecular and cellular approaches.


Randy S. Sprague, M.D.

Randy S. Sprague, M.D.
Emeritus Professor

Research Interests: Dr. Sprague's research interests are the definition of the role of erythrocyte-released adenosine triphosphate in the regulation of the microcirculation and the pathophysiology of pulmonary hypertension.

 


John K. Walker, Ph.D.

John K. Walker, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Research Interests: Our research is focused on the application of medicinal chemistry techniques to identify and optimize potential new therapeutic agents. We have active research projects targeting the development of novel antibiotic and antibiotic potentiators.


Thomas C. Westfall, Ph.D.

Thomas C. Westfall, Ph.D. 
Emeritus Professor


L. James Willmore, Jr, M.D.

L. James Willmore, Jr, M.D.
Associate Dean for Admissions for the School of Medicine
Professor of Neurology - Epilepsy
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research interests:  As an epileptologist, Dr. Willmore’s dedication to the study and treatment of epilepsy has led to active involvement as a researcher and clinician. His work has involved studies of neurotransmitters and their agonists, and various investigations into the action and pharmokinetics of anti-epileptic drugs. He has conducted multiple anti-epileptic drug trials.


Fenglian Xu, Ph.D.

Fenglian Xu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Research Interests: Neuronal outgrowth, regeneration, synapse formation and plasticity are pivotal not only for normal brain development and function, but also for brain repair after injury or degeneration. The primary research in Xu's laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms that control synapse formation and transmission, and how environmental factors may impact molecules and cellular events that are involved in normal brain development and function.


Gina Yosten, Ph.D.

Gina Yosten, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Research Interests: Our lab is focused on understanding the role of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), and in particular orphan GPCRs, in endocrine diseases including diabetes and obesity.


Daniel S. Zahm, Ph.D.

Daniel S. Zahm, Ph.D.
Professor

Research Interests: To understand how the basal forebrain in concert with the cerebral cortex, diencephalon and brainstem, generates neural correlates of reward, aversion, fear, hunger, thirst and sexual and affiliative imperatives, and from competing demands orchestrates the synthesis of flexible, biologically adaptive actions.


Jinsong Zhang, Ph.D.

Jinsong Zhang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Research Interests: Epigenetics, Transcriptional Regulation, Leukemia fusion proteins, Nuclear receptors, Etiology of Cancer and Leukemia, Drug resistance, Bioinformatics, High-throughput technology, Structural Biology


Silviya Petrova Zustiak, Ph.D.

Silviya Petrova Zustiak, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology
Co-Director, Institute of Drug and Biotherapeutic Innovation at SLU

Research Interests: Zustiak’s primary research interests are in hydrogel biomaterials and tissue engineering, with emphasis on developing novel biomaterials as cell scaffolds and drug screening platforms, and elucidating matrix structure-property relationships as well as cell-matrix interactions. Biomaterial-based models are crucial for bridging the gap between traditional tissue culture and animal models by providing a cell environment that closely mimics real tissue. This research is highly multidisciplinary, merging the fields of engineering, materials science, and biology. 


Adjunct Faculty

  • Thomas Burris, Ph.D.
  • Colin A. Flaveny, Ph.D