Cam McCarthy, a current biomedical sciences doctoral student majoring in Physiology, started his academic journey aspiring to become a P.E. teacher. Originally from New Zealand, Cam earned a Bachelor of Physical Education at Appalachian State University, and a Master of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of Memphis. However, after being exposed to research while completing his Master’s degree, he realized he wanted to expand his knowledge of human physiology and cardiovascular disease. With that in mind, he sought out a graduate program focused on biomedical research.
“The recommendation from my mentor at University of Memphis was ‘you don’t choose a school, you choose a lab,’” he said. “I evaluated labs at different universities, and I was really impressed with the research being performed here at Augusta University. Having the opportunity to perform lab rotations during the first year to find the right mentor and lab was also integral in my decision to attend Augusta University.”
Cam’s lab focuses on vascular function, specifically cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. His current research asks one overarching question: “What is the contribution of the innate immune system to the development of hypertensive vascular dysfunction and hypertension?”
Alongside his mentor, Dr. Clinton Webb, Cam is investigating how damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) activate Toll-like receptors- which are components of the innate immune system- in the vasculature, and cause inflammation and elevations in blood pressure. When a cell dies or becomes injured, molecules that wouldn’t normally be present are released into circulation, causing an inflammatory response by activating those Toll-like receptors.
“In my laboratory, we are interested in the vasculature, so we isolate vessels from rats and perform reactivity experiments,” Cam explained. “If we use an activator or an inhibitor of a Toll-like receptor, we can see how that influences vascular function and blood pressure.”
The goal of Cam’s research is to discover mechanisms of hypertension development, and develop novel treatment strategies that could help ameliorate other cardiovascular diseases that occur as a result of hypertension, such as heart failure or atherosclerosis.
However, Cam made it clear that while hypertension precedes many cardiovascular diseases, the seriousness of the condition alone should not be underestimated.
“They call hypertension ‘the silent killer’ because people don’t always realize they suffer from it until it’s too late,” he said.
Cam has been highly successful at Augusta University. He was funded by the American Heart Association Pre-doctoral Fellowship for his dissertation, and he’s presented his research at several conferences, including Experimental Biology and the Council for Hypertension, to name just a few. In fact, in 2015, he won the ASPET Cardiovascular Pharmacology Trainee Showcase-Graduate Student Competition at Experimental Biology.
Overall, Cam said he is proud to be a member of the Physiology Program at Augusta University, and said the mentorship and lab he found, along with the first-class education, has led him to achieve significant results.
“The research I’m doing is contributing to meaningful outcomes for how we will treat hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the future, whether it be by preventative measures or therapeutic strategies,” he said. “I feel like the work I am doing could contribute to a doctor one day prescribing something new to a patient who isn’t responding well to the hypertension drugs that are currently on the market.”
To read more on Cam and his research, go to: http://greport.gru.edu/archives/18584