Core Faculty


CORE   FACULTY : Professional Biography  
David W. Stepp, PhD..
Professor of Physiology, Basic Science Director, Diabetes and Obesity Discovery Institute
Phone: (706) 721-1949
Fax: (706) 721-6196
Office: CB-3212A/ Lab: CB-3319

Research Interests

The focus of our lab is in understanding the cardiovascular consequences of obesity. Obesity is arguably the greatest health threat in Western medicine, afflicting over 1/3 of the U.S. population and growing yet more prevalent. While enormous progress has been achieved in recognizing the prevalence of end-stage diseases like obesity and hypertension in obesity, the unexplored frontier lies in identifying therapeutic opportunities for intervention prior to the development of these conditions. It is this frontier that our lab is dedicated to explore. Specific areas of interest include:

Determining the effects of pre-diabetic metabolic disease on vascular function: While insulin resistance is well-recognized as a precursor state to diabetes, emerging evidence indicates that it is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. rats Using dietary models of sugar loading, evidence has mounting of impaired control of endothelial function and altered regulation of blood pressure in insulin resistance. What remains unclear is the extent to which the vascular dysfunction in obesity can be attributed to the metabolic changes associated with obesity. To address this issue, we have generated dual transgene mice on a eptin-deficient background. The second transgene is Protein Tyrosine Phosphotase 1-B, a key regulatory enzyme that causes insulin resistance. By deleting this enzyme, a strain of mice is generated that is still obese (Mouse #250) compared to control (Mouse #24) but insulin sensitive with a normal metabolic profile. The next phase of these studied will determine if cardiovascular dysfunction observed in normal obese mice (#248) are corrected in the dual transgene.

Endocrine dysfunction as a cause of cardiovascular disease in obesity: While metabolic function is well-known to accompany increases in adiposity, it is also known that other, parallel endocrinopathy occurs. Our lab is interested in two specific kinds of endocrine disease: hypothyroidism and hyperadrenalism. Both conditions are evident on obese individuals but the cardiovascular consequences are unknown. The specific interest in our lab is the extent to which these two condition impact on signaling in the adrenergic receptor pathways present in vascular smooth muscle. Alpha adrenergic tone is upregulated in the skeletal muscle circulation and alpha adrenergic receptors are at least in part regulating by glucorticoids, the hormones that are increased in hyperadrenal states. In contrast, beta adrenergic vasodilation is reduced in obesity and beta adrenergic receptor expression is determined by thyroid status, which is reduced in obesity. Thus, the shift to a more constricted state may be driven by an imbalance in these two hormone system. The goal of this project is to determine the extent to which normalization of hormone status improves cardiovascular function in obesity.

Regulation of cardiovascular during stress: Another cardiovascular deficit in obese individuals is the inability to properly regulate blood pressure during periods of psychological stress. Obesity appears to impair the proper integration of neural and vascular signal during periods of psychological stress and thus normal events can precipitate cardiovascular exigencies in obese individuals. In this project, we are attempting to determine the extent stepp1to which neural control of the circulation is altered at the vascular level and whether this dysfunction contributes to impairment in both the acute and chronic regulation of blood pressure.

Adrenal Gland from an Obese rat

Current Projects

Current Projects

Active Grant Support

NIH R01 HL98574 � “Metabolic Determinants of Cardiovascular Dysfunction in Obesity”
Active:2009-2014 - $2,502,000 total costs
Dual PI application with David Fulton � 25%
NIH R21 - “Molecular Mechanisms of “Fit but Fat” - Muscle Mass and Coronary Function in Obesity”
Active: 2010-2012 - $407,000 total costs
PI � 17%
NIH 1R01HL093460 � “Vascular Anti-Inflammatory Actions of HSP90 Inhibitors”
Active: 2010-2014 � salary support only
PI: John D. Catravas, PhD.
Co-Investigator for 5%
DODI PPG Development Award - “Contribution of Circadian Dysfunction to the Cardiovascular Consequences of Obesity”
Active 2010-2011 - $100,000 total costs
Lead PI � 5%
Team � David Fulton, PhD, Dan Rudic, PhD. and Ann Scheihofer, PhD.

Honors and Awards

  • Virendra Mahesh Distinguished Research Award, MCG - 2010
  • Featured research: National report of the AHA Wisconsin Affiliate � 2001
  • Microcirculation Society Young Investigator Travel Award � $2500 to defray the costs of a lecture tour across Europe � September 2001
  • Lamport Award for Outstanding Young Physiologist finalist - 1997
  • American Heart Association Fellowship 1996-1997 (Declined)
  • American Heart Association Fellowship 1995-1996
  • NIH training grant appointee, Center for Bioengineering, University of Washington, 1993-1995 � J.B. Bassingthewaite, P.I.
  • Teaching assistantship, Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1988-1993
stepp vessels

Invited Speaker

“Compensatory Interactions in the Coronary Microcirculation”

  • Medtronics, Inc., Minneapolis, MN � February 2000
  • Bristol Meyers-Squibb, Princeton, NJ � March 2000
  • Wyeth Pharmaceutical, Lawrenceville, PA � July 2000
  • West Virginia University, Morgantown WV � August 2000
  • Abbot Laboratories, Chicago IL � October 2000
  • University of South Carolina, SC � November 2000
  • Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk VA � February 2001
  • Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN � March 2001
  • Medical College of Georgia, Augusta GA � May 2001
  • Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands � September 2001
  • Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands � September 2001
  • Institute for Kardiovaskulre Physiologie, Frankfurt, Germany � September 2001
  • Institute de Recherce Servier, Paris, France � September 2001
  • International Society of Heart Research, Szeged, Hungary - July 2002

“Is Shear Stress A Regulated Variable in the Coronary Microcirculation?”

  • International Society of Heart Research, Louisville, KY � June 2000
  • National Institutes of Health � August 2002

“Microvascular Structural and Functional Alterations in Syndrome X”

  • Lankenau Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA - October 2001
  • Medical College of Georgia, Augusta GA - November 2001
  • University of South Carolina �Aiken �March 2002
  • University of Cincinnati � Cincinnati � January 2003
  • University of Mississippi Medical Center � Jackson, MS � August 2003
  • Louisiana Health Sciences Center � New Orleans, LA � August 2003
  • American Heart Association National Meeting � New Orleans, LA � November 2004 (abbreviated form)
  • University of Georgia � Athens, GA � February 2006

“Oxidant Stress in the Metabolic Syndrome X”

  • Southeastern Lipid Research Club, Georgia � September 2003

“Impact of Obesity on Control of Blood Flow”

  • Texas A&M University, Temple, TX � September 2005
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA � September 2005
  • American Heart Association National Meeting � Dallas, TX � November 2005 (abbreviated form)
  • Experimental Biology � San Francisco, CA, April 2006 (abbreviated form)
  • European Council on the Microcirculation � Amsterdam, The Netherlands, August 2006
  • Case Western Reserve University � Cleveland, OH � November 2006

“The Effects of the Metabolic Syndrome on the Microcirculation”

  • 8th World Congress on the Microcirculation � Milwaukee, WI � August 2007
  • American Heart Association National Meeting � Orlando, FL � November 2007
  • European Council on the Microcirculation, Budapest, Hungary - August 2008
  • Morehouse University, Atlanta GA � October 2008
  • University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL � March 2009
  • University of Sao Paulo, Riberio Preto, Brazil � October 2010
  • University of North Texas HSC, Fort Worth TX � February 2011
  • University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC � April 2011
  • Experimental Biology 2011� Washington DC April 2011

“Novel Links between Obesity and Cardiovascular Function”

  • 42nd Annual Brazilian Congress on Experimental Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Ribeiro Preto, Brazil � October 2010 Global
  • Obesity Summit, Jackson MS � November 2010

Recent Trainees


Deron Jones � 1998-2001

Julie Campbell � 2001 � 2007

James Mintz � 2002- present

Bethany Schlacter � 2005 � 2006

Jessica Quinlan � 2005- 2006

Christina Salet � 2006-present


Sarah J. Kalt - Specialized Program for Undergraduate Research, 1998

Denine Zeiss - Alverno College internship program 1999

David Plumley � Summer Training and Research Program, 2004

Meagan N. Chaffins � Emory Summer Student, 2006


Rotation and Summer Students

Tracy Bell � Graduate Rotation Student 2002

Colin McKinney � Medical Student 2003

Clark Hair � Medical Student 2003

James Fletcher � Medical Student 2004

William Lefler � Medical Student 2004

Daniel Mandel � Graduate Student Rotation 2004

Elizabeth Mobley � Medical Student 2005

Brian Dalton � Medical Student 2005

John Tidwell - Medical Student 2005

Irfan Mohammed Ali � Graduate Student Rotation 2006

Robert Andrew Lehn � Medical Student 2006

Poneh Davoodi � Medical Student 2006

Philip Delima � Medical Student Rotation 2007

Shawn Elms � Graduate Student Rotation 2007

Eric Price � Medical Student 2007

Douglas Kimbler � Graduate Student Rotation 2008

Barry Borskie � Medical Student, DODI Scholar � 2009

David Herren � Medical Student, DODI Scholar � 2009,2010

Lauren Germany � Medical Student, DODI Scholar � 2009

Shuiqing Qiu � Graduate Student Rotation 2010

Christopher Blakely - Medical Student, DODI Scholar � 2010

Cristabell Osawake - Medical Student, DODI Scholar � 2011 &nbs p;


Medical Illustration Research Mentorships

Kristin Robertshaw � Lipoprotein Transport � 2005-2006

Michelle Reinke � Insulin Resistance � 2009-2010

Summer Smith � Physiology of Leptin � 2009-2010


Graduate Students

Irfan Mohammed Ali � 2006-2010

Awarded APS Industry Liaison Committee Novel Model of Disease Award � 2008

Awarded American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship 0815005E - “PTP1B Deletion Ameliorates Vascular Dysfunction in Insulin Resistant Obese Mice” � 2008-2010

Awarded MCG Graduate Faculty Research in Excellence Award � 2008

Awarded Research Recognition Award � APS Cardiovascular Section 2009

Awarded APS Industry Liaison Committee Novel Model of Disease Award � 2010

Awarded MCG Graduate Faculty Research Excellence in Vascular Biology Award � 2010

Defended 7/2010 � Student, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine


Jessica Osmond � 2007 - 2010

Awarded APS-CV Section Research Recognition Award � 2008

Awarded Appointment to Training Grant 1T32HL076146-01 �“Predoctoral Training in Cardiovascular Biology” - 2007-2009

Awarded Merck Young Investigator Award- 2008

Defended 2/2010 � Post-Doc with Nan Kanagy, PhD., University of New Mexico


Shuiqing Qiu � 2010 -present



Olga Romanko, M.D. - 2002-2005

Rajan Prakash, M.D. � 2005- 2006

Eric Belin de Chantelemele, PhD. � 2006-2010

Awarded American Heart Association Post-Doctoral Fellowship 0825337E - “Modulation of vascular function by PTP1B” � 2008-2010

Awarded - Forest Pharmaceutical Young Investigator Travel Award

Jackson Renal Meeting, 2008

Awarded � Society for Experimental Biology Medicine Young Investigator Award, 2009

Awarded � MCG GRD Award for Excellence in Presentation � 2009

Awarded � MCG GRD Award for Excellence in Presentation � 2010

Awarded �Travel Award, Global Obesity Summit, Jackson, MS - 2010

Awarded � American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant 11SDG5060006 - “Mechanisms of Leptin-Mediated Hypertension” � 2011-2014

Other Publications

Review articles, Book Chapters and other publications not indexed by ISI or Pub-Med


  1. Tulenko, T.N., R.P. Mason, M. Chen, H. Tasaki, D. Rock, and UD. W.Stepp.U Atherogenic Activity Caused by Excess Membrane Cholesterol in Arterial Smooth Muscle: Role of Calcium Channels. In: 5th International Conference on Calcium Channels. Eds. R. Paoletti, T. Godfraind, and P.M. Vanhoutte. 1993
  2. Tulenko, T.N. UStepp, D.W.,U Chen, M., Moisey, D.M., L. Laury-Kleintop and R.P. Mason. Actions of the charged dihydropyridine amlodipine in a cell culture model of dietary atherosclerosis. J. Cardiovasc Pharm. 26 (Suppl. A), S11-S17, 1995.
  3. Chilian, W.M., D. Weihrauch, UD. W. SteppU, J. Rapps, C. Wright, and Y. Nishikawa. Does the Coronary Circulation play a role in heart failure? Dialogues in Cardiovascular Medicine. 3:89-98, 1998
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Education and Training

Medical College of Pennsylvania:
PhD. 1993 Physiology

University of South Carolina:
B.S. 1988 Biology

Research Experience & Academic Appointments

2011-present Professor of Physiology, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University
2008-present Basic Science Director, Diabetes and Obesity Discovery Institute, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University
2006-present Chief, Program in Metabolic Vascular Disease at the Vascular Biology Center, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University
2006-2011 Associate Professor of Physiology, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University
2001-2006 Assistant Professor of Physiology, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University
2001-present Core Member, Vascular Biology Center, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University
1996-2001 Research Asst. Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin
1993-1996 Senior Research Fellow, University of Washington

Membership in Professional Societies

Fellow - American Society of Physiology
Full Member � Microcirculatory Society
Fellow - Council on Circulation/Basic Science, American Heart Association
Full Member � European Microcirculatory Society


National Meetings

Microcirculation Society Young Investigators Symposium
Chair, 2002

Microcirculation Society Young Investigators Symposium
Co-Chair, 2003

American Heart Association Symposium, “Cardiovascular Complications of Obesity and Insulin Resistance” � Organizer and Chair, 2004

Featured Topic � Experimental Biology 2008� “"Impact of Obesity on Cardiovascular Function: Role of Inflammation" � Chair, 2008

Session � ATVB 2008 � “Control of Vascular Tone” � Co-Chair 2008

Session � CHBPR 2008 “Cardiac and Vascular Remodeling and Dysfunction” � Moderator 2008

Session � CHBPR 2009 “Vessels and Volume in Obesity” � Moderator 2009

Session � CHBPR 2009 “Obesity, Insulin and Metabolic Factors” � Moderator 2009

Featured Topic � Experimental Biology 2010 �“Cardiovascular Consequences of the Metabolic Syndrome” � Chair, 2010

Abstract Reviews

- Past

American Heart Association National Meeting � 2003-2007

European Microcirculation Society � 2006 Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology � 2008-2010

- Present

Council on High Blood Pressure Research � 2006-present

Editorial Board Service

Microcirculation (2004 � present)

- Associate Editor (2010-present)

>American Journal of Physiology (Heart and Circulation) � (2005-present)

Journal of Vascular Research � (2007-present)

American Journal of Physiology (Regulatory) � (2007-present)

Hypertension � (2007 � present)

Circulation Research (2009-present)

Basic Research in Cardiology (2010-present)

Frontiers in Oxidant Physiology (2010-present)

Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (2010-present)


Book Reviews

Sherwood's “Fundamentals of Physiology”

Grant Reviews

Member of Study Section 5B - Cellular and Molecular Physiology - American

Heart Association, Northland Affiliate (1998)

Member of Study Section 5C - Cellular and Molecular Physiology - American

Heart Association, Northland Affiliate (1998-2001)

Review of Merit Awards - Veterans Administration (2000-2002)

Member of Study Section CV (Patho) Physiology III � AHA National (2002-2004)

NIH Study Section Cardiovascular B (CVB) Ad Hoc � 2003

NIH Study Section Atherosclerosis and Inflammation in the Circulatory System

(ACIS) Ad Hoc � 2/2004, 10/2004

Combined Intramural Grant Program Review Committee � MCG (2004, 2006, 2008)

Member of Study Section Vascular Biology & Blood Pressure/Regulation � AHA

National (2004)

Co-Chair of Study Section Vascular Biology & Blood Pressure/Regulation � AHA

National (2005)

NIH Study Section Vascular Cell and Molecular Biology

(VCMB) Ad Hoc � 3/2005, 10/2005, 6/2006, 2/2007

American Heart Association Southeastern Affiliate 3C � 2007

AHA Region II Vascular Biology and Blood Pressure Regulation (Co-Chair) � 2008

NIH Round 1 Challenge Grant Review Committees 9 and 20 (Dual service) � 2009

AHA Region II Vascular Biology and Blood Pressure Regulation (Chair) � 2009-2010

NIH ZRG1 VH-D (55) RC4 Grand Opportunity Awards � 2010

NIH ZRG1 VH-F (02) M � 2010

NIH Study Section Myocardial Ischemia and Metabolism � 2/2011

National Committees

American Physiology Society

Porter Physiology Development Committee (2006-2009)

Cardiovascular Section Awards Committee (2006-2013)Chair � (2010-2013)

Cardiovascular Section Steering Committee (2010-2012)

Microcirculatory Society

Development Committee (2011-2014)


Institutional Academic Service


Judge - Graduate Student Poster Sessions, Med. Coll. WI - August 1999

Evaluator - SPUR student research presentation - August 2000

Faculty Focus Group on MCW Future � April 2001

Ad Hoc Committee to Assess Technical Salaries � 2002-2003

Ad Hoc Diabetes Initiative Steering Committee � 2002-2003

Department of Physiology Search Committee � 2004

Academic Research Computing Advisory Board � 2004 �2006

Graduate School Curriculum Advancement Committee � 2005-2008

Task Force on Faculty Benefits � 2007

Vascular Biology Center Search Committee � 2007-2008

Task Force on Faculty Retirement � 2009

Enterprise-Wide Strategic Planning Committee

Research Pillar � 2010


Coordinator of Vascular Biology Seminar series � 2003 � present

Vascular Biology Graduate Program Committee - 2003-present

Graduate Council (second term) � 2007-present

MCG Intramural Research Program Committee � 2007-present

Long-Tern Strategic Planning Committee

Global Presence-Research Sub-Committee

Vascular Biology Search Committee - 2010-present


James Mintz

Nitirut Nernpermpisooth

Christina Salet

Shuiqing Qiu