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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Professor Geoff Head and Dr Cindy Gueguen

Research focus

Hypertension affects nearly a billion people worldwide. The influence of the central nervous system on long-term blood pressure levels and the relationship between blood pressure and stress pathways in the brain is a major focus of the studies in the Neuropharmacology laboratory.

Project summary


There is much evidence that reduced GABA function may be a common finding in neurogenic hypertension such as that observed with Spontaneous Hypertensive Rats (SHR) and Schlager hypertensive mice (BPH/2). SHR have reduced GABA turnover in hypothalamus (brain) and altered functioning of GABA receptors compared with their normotensive counterparts.

Our lab has shown that ganaxolone, an exogenous neurosteroid and allosteric modulator of GABA receptors, reduced blood pressure in BPH/2, and restored GABA receptor mRNA expression in the hypothalamus and medial amygdala. The mechanism may be related to GABA receptor function improvement leading to reduction in sympathetic nerve overactivity.

Project aim

Our aim is to investigate whether the changes in expression of GABA receptor are responsible for or "associated" with the reversal of hypertension. In this study ganaxolone or vehicle will be administered subcuteanously via minipump to a rodent model of hypertension (SHR or BPH/2). The increase in GABA receptor will be prevent by the intracerebral administration of GABA agonists or a viral plasmid contruction that will silence the gene. The contribution of GABA receptor to hypertension will be assessed by measuring blood preassure and heart rate after each treatment, and the sympathetic nerve activity will potentially be recorded as well.


It is anticipated that this will involve the measurement of blood pressure and heart rate, drug administration using subcutaneous osmotic minipump and stereotaxic injections, recording of sympathetic nerve activity and PCR.

This project is suitable for an Honours student.

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