CSU professor recognized for research in blood vessel function

For his extensive research in human cardiovascular physiology, Frank Dinenno, a professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and director of Colorado State University’s Human Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, was awarded the 2018 Inaugural Environmental and Exercise Physiology (EEP) Impact Award by the American Physiological Society.

TheFrank Dinenno award, according to the American Physiological Society’s website, “recognizes a mid-career primary EEP member who has either established a line of impactful research or has made a seminal discovery in the areas of environmental, exercise, thermal, or applied physiology.”

Dinenno’s research 

Dinenno’s research investigates how small blood vessels work to control blood flow and oxygen delivery to skeletal muscles and their reactivity to vasoactive compounds. Dinenno’s research in human cardiovascular physiology dates back to his pre-CSU days working at CU-Boulder and  the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“A lot of this research stemmed from what we were doing at Mayo,” Dinenno said. “My mentor there, Mike Joyner, is one of the world’s experts in combining pharmacology and physiology in humans to try to understand how your blood vessels work.  I went to do research with him because he could do that all in his own lab setup, and I wanted to get that training to hopefully try and do that on my own.”

Dinenno is currently conducting a collaborative research project with Joyner and the Mayo Clinic that is funded by a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The study looks at the role of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, in causing blood vessels to dilate when muscles need more oxygen such as during exercise.

With more than 70 research papers published in top journals in the field, Dinenno’s work showcases a number of groundbreaking findings. In a recent study, Dinenno explained how vascular function is affected as people age.

“One of the things we’re interested in is the innermost lining of your blood vessels, which is called the endothelium,” Dinenno said. “The function of those cells, as you age, decreases significantly in various ways. So what we’re interested in is how impaired function at that level, or that cell layer, impacts the blood vessels as a whole to either dilate or constrict.”

Beyond the laboratory 

Understanding these phenomena is just the start, though. Through his research, professionals in the field can utilize these findings to further understand and possibly treat many concerning, yet common cardiovascular issues present in humans. But new answers lead to newer questions; Dinenno’s research creates a larger research foundation for experts to continue exploring.

“We found that the function of endothelial cells are significantly compromised as you age and in various disease states. Many people think this puts people at risk for the development of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart failure,” Dinenno said.

A collaborative effort 

Though Dinenno led the research and won the EEP Impact Award, he credits his team of fellow researchers and graduate students who share the same curiosity and passion. Without them, this award would not have been possible. He hopes the award recognizes not only his work, but also the amount of time and effort put forth by his students.

Frank Dinenno reviews his nots with a graduate researcher

“The cool thing is I was with my students when I found out,” Dinenno said. “It’s always fun to celebrate recognitions because any award I get is a reflection of the work they’re doing in the lab.”

The award includes a travel grant to attend the 2018 Experimental Biology Meeting held in San Diego, the primary meeting place for the American Physiological Society, where Dinenno will give a keynote presentation in a featured topic session on blood flow control in human health and disease.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.