Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine
Chief of Anesthesia, Wilmer Eye Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
600 N. Broadway
Smith Building, Room 4041
Baltimore, MD 21287
Dr. Richard Rivers' primary interest is vascular communication. He is actively studying microcirculation physiology to determine how metabolic demands are signaled between the tissue and the vascular network and along the vascular network itself. To conduct his work, Dr. Rivers uses a technique called intravital fluorescence microscopy, which enables him to measure the blood flow within a single artery, vein, or capillary. Further, with micropipettes, specific agonists and antagonists can be applied directly to the blood vessel to determine the effect on blood flow in real time.
Currently, Dr. Rivers is working to determine the role for inwardly rectifying potassium channels (Kir) 2.1 and 6.1 in signaling along the vessel wall, as well as the role of gap junctions. One of his initiatives is to develop viral vectors to use as tools to study the promoters that are specific for cell types in the vessel wall. The vectors are used to downregulate proteins such as the potassium channels and gap junctions to determine the effect on vascular function. Dr. Rivers is excited to have discovered that using hyaluronidase to break down the extracellular matrix enhances viral expression. In the future, Dr. Rivers may use RNA interference (RNAi) as another method for downregulating the proteins. He is also just beginning to test mice with specific gene deletions in his experimental models.
Ultimately, Dr. Rivers hopes that a better basic understanding of the microcirculation will lead to a better comprehension of disease processes, such as the angiogenesis that occurs in cancer and circulatory dysfunction associated with diabetes. This knowledge at the molecular level could enable the development of specific drugs that can target these processes and limit disease progression.