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Adam Underwood

Adam Underwood

Associate Professor of Biology

B.S., Walsh University; M.S., University of Akron; Ph.D., Kent State University

Walsh University
A Catholic University of Distinction
2020 East Maple Street
North Canton, Ohio44720
United States

Research Provides Clue to High Blood Pressure in Men

Research Provides Clue to High Blood Pressure in Men

Can a developmental protein found in men relate to high blood pressure? For several years, Dr. Adam Underwood, Associate Professor of Biology, has been conducting research on the SRY protein as it relates to high blood pressure in men.

“By training I’m a molecular biologist, and I use this specialization to study the genetic attributes of hypertension or high blood pressure,” said Dr. Underwood. “My research has centered on the developmental protein called SRY, which when produced leads to male development during the early embryotic stages; however, my focus is on how alterations in this protein may contribute to cardiovascular dysfunction in the adult system. In total, I’ve spent more than 10 years studying the activities of SRY in adult male tissues.”

Proteins in the human body, when linked together, show changes in function. Dr. Underwood and his student researchers are investigating how SRY may interact with other proteins so they can determine if these SRY-target protein combinations could be facilitating or leading to high blood pressure.

“What is strange about SRY is that it was identified about 20 years ago, and the scientific community still doesn’t understand exactly how it works,” said Underwood. “We are trying to answer several fundamental questions about SRY like ‘is it always being produced and if so where is it being made by the adult system?’ and ‘when it’s there, how does it actually function?’”

Utilizing a rat model of hypertension, Dr. Underwood’s research team in collaboration with researchers at The University of Akron has found that alternative forms of SRY do seem to contribute to elevated blood pressure in the male system.

SRY binding could contribute to other potential dysfunctions in the male system such as prostate cancer, hair loss and male patterned baldness.

Dr. Underwood is also contributing to Dr. Novak’s grant research by studying the molecular attributes associated with relaxin. His student collaborate research has continued to study SRY and the various proteins that relaxin may regulate at the molecular level utilizing a piece of equipment called a qPCR. The qPCR is a sophisticated machine that allows students to estimate the amount of target RNA’s extracted from various tissue samples. According to Dr. Underwood, it is a quick way to see if the addition of relaxin increases or decreases production of other proteins that might contribute to what Dr. Novak is studying on the physiological side. Additionally, by doing tissue culture on cells grown from blood vessels, the team can present a well-rounded picture of what is going on at both the physiologic and molecular levels.

What has made Dr. Underwood most proud though is watching his students use their experience in the Walsh labs to further their own professional careers. Alum Patrick Mitchell was accepted into the Baylor University graduate program where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular biology and bioinformatics. Dr. Underwood’s students have also gone on to work with research teams at prestigious institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the University of Michigan Medical School.

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