The research interests of Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D., include neural and vascular mechanisms in circulatory control in health and disease.
Dr. Somers directs the Cardiovascular Facility and the Sleep Facility within Mayo Clinic's Center for Clinical and Translational Science. His team's research focuses on the role of the autonomic nervous system in cardiovascular regulation in humans, with an emphasis on normal and disordered sleep. The team is also involved in studies of vascular biology in humans, examining how changes in neural mechanisms may influence the local control of blood vessels.
Extensive collaborative interactions within and outside Mayo Clinic are fundamental to the successful evolution of Dr. Somers' research program. Current collaborations include studies with investigators at the University of Iowa and the University of Cincinnati and joint projects with academic medical centers in Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium.
Support for Dr. Somers' research consists of four R01 grants from the National Institutes of Health, a Dana Foundation grant and a NATO grant.
- Neural, vascular and genetic mechanisms linking sleep disorders to cardiovascular disease. Studies in this area of focus explore the interactions between sleep apnea and cardiovascular function, with special attention paid to mechanisms by which sleep apnea may worsen heart failure. Dr. Somers' team is also addressing the potential mechanisms by which changes in neural and vascular function may contribute to the circadian pattern of cardiovascular events.
- Risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The team is investigating autonomic, vascular and neuroendocrine mechanisms linking obesity to cardiovascular disease. Additional research is being carried out on the cardiovascular disease mechanisms activated by tobacco use.
- Long QT syndrome (LQTS). Another area of focus involves research on the mechanisms mediating sudden death risk in patients with LQTS.
- Vasovagal syncope. Dr. Somers also studies vasovagal syncope, one of the most common causes of fainting.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Somers' research program utilizes an integrated physiologic approach to studying cardiovascular function, seeking to examine questions with relevance to cardiovascular disease. An emphasis is placed on applying new developments in basic biology to studies in humans.