About Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

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About Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

The Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology has had strong, stable leadership that has directed successful programs of research and graduate education since 1972. Dr. William Berndt (1975-82) and Dr. Ing K. Ho (1982-2006) built a strong program emphasizing toxicology, drug abuse and central control of cardiovascular function with intracellular signaling as a unifying theme.

This theme continued while Dr. Jerry Farley was interim chair from 2006-09. Dr. Richard Roman became chair in 2009. Dr. Roman, formerly professor of physiology, medicine and pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, has strengthened considerably the cellular/molecular basis of cardiovascular, renal and cancer therapeutics research within the pharmacology program. In addition, he has strengthened ties with the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, which is well known for its strong cardiovascular research program. In 2021, Dr. Babbette LaMarca, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, became Chair.  Dr. LaMarca is continuing the growth, progress, and excellence in the Department. She has promoted and led a collaborative, team-oriented environment that focuses on Clinically-relevant, Translational Research themes.

In the last few years, we have recruited 13 new faculty members to the department, and we have plans to soon add at least two more. The strength of our current pharmacology and toxicology program is the breadth of experimental models/methods employed by the researchers. That strength and the collaborative research environment translate directly into the quality of student training which is exemplified by the fact that 90% of the program's graduates have obtained positions in academics, government, or industry. Based on the history of trainees mentored by Dr. LaMarca and others that trend will continue to reflect excellence.

Examples of the scope of training available in the program include:

  • Dr. Babbette Lamarca, who is a world leader in the study of the immune system in pregnancy-induced hypertension.
  • Dr. Richard J. Roman, who studies the roles of CYP-dependent arachidonic acid metabolites in the regulation of renal function, vascular tone and angiogenesis; uses transgenic and KO rat models to explore the genetic basis of hypertension and diabetic renal injury, cerebrovascular disease, stroke, and vascular cognitive decline; and develops novel therapies for the treatment of chronic kidney disease, stroke and diabetic nephropathy.
  • Dr. George Booz, who investigates inflammatory cytokine signaling in the heart as a mechanism of remodeling during left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure. He is also investigating the therapeutic utility of hematopoietic stem cells for repair of the injured heart.
  • Dr. Jan Williams, who utilizes unique rodent models of obesity, hypertension- and diabetic-induced renal disease to identify early biomarkers for these diseases; and investigate interactions between pro-inflammatory cytokines, TGF, and MMPs in the development of glomerulosclerosis.
  • Dr. Michael Garrett, who has a broad interest in the genetic basis of cardiovascular and renal diseases such as hypertension, diabetic nephropathy, kidney stone disease and renal agenesis. He utilizes a multidisciplinary genomics approach that encompasses studies in human populations, animal models, cultured cells, genetics and genomics methods, and bioinformatics to address these issues. He is also the director of the Institutional Genomics Facility with state of the art equipment for microarrays, RNA and DNA sequencing.
  • Dr. Jia Zhou, who focuses on the roles of intracellular and intracrine angiotensin II in the control of renal function under physiological and hypertensive states using complementary approaches that include in vitro and in vivo cell-specific G protein-coupled receptor gene silencing, knockout and transgenic animals, as well immunohistochemical localization of receptors, receptor binding, and proteomics techniques.
  • Dr. Jian-Xiong Chen, who is studying the role of multiple growth factors to stimulate angiogenesis in diabetes to reduce infarct size of heart damage following ischemic injury.
  • Dr. Sydney Murphy, who is studying the role of eicosanoids in the pathogenesis of pregnancy-induced hypertension in both patient samples and using animal models.
  • Dr. Mallikarjuna Reddy Pabbidi, who is an expert electrophysiologist who uses patch clamp and sophisticated imaging techniques to study sex differences in vascular reactivity with a focus on the cerebral circulation.
  • Dr. Stanley Smith, who is director in the Mass Spectrometry and Analytical Core Facility, is developing new, sensitive, and highly specific assays for endocrine hormones, important RAAS peptides, and other drugs and biomarkers important in understanding the underlying pathophysiology of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and cancer.
  • Dr. Fan Fan, whose research focuses on the genetic basis of the cerebral and renal microvascular dysfunction in end-organ damage with aging, hypertension, and diabetes.

The pharmacology department operates the Institutional Genomics Core Facility with state of the art equipment for microarrays and RNA and DNA sequencing.  In addition, the Department of pharmacologyoperates the institutional Mass Spectrometry Core and Analytical Facility for the University of Mississippi Medical Center that houses a variety of HPLCs and two state-of-the-art LC/MS/MS instruments. The pharmacology department is well equipped for confocal fluorescent imaging, ultrasound measurements of cardiac function, studies of mitochondrial energetics, EPR measurements of ROS, measurement of nitric oxide, patch clamp studies, molecular biology and cell culture facilities, real-time PCR and DNA sequencing and high throughput genotyping. In short, our students have access to the state-of-the-art instrumentation and methodologies necessary to be competitive after graduation from the program.  The Department of Pharmacology has recently initiated a Clinical Research Core (CRC) which is instrumental in patient recruitment, sample collection, and performing various assays to facilitate translational research efforts in our department. An extension of this CRC is the Mentoring Core in which outside investigators can utilize the Assay core to support their research as well as receive mentoring to aid in data analysis and grant writing.