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Allen W. Cowley, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman
Phone: (414) 955-8277
E-mail: cowley@mcw.edu
B.A. Economics, Trinity College, 1961
Ph.D. Physiology and Biophysics, Hahnemann Medical University, 1968
Research areas: Renal Physiology
  Cardiovascular Physiology
  Genetics & Genomics


Allen W. Cowley, Jr. is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Prior to that time, he was Professor of Physiology working in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics headed by Dr. Arthur Guyton at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Dr. Cowley's scientific interests are in the study of renal and vascular mechanisms involved in the long-term control of arterial pressure. Application of molecular genetics to the understanding of complex physiological function represents the central theme of most of his current research. Working with a large team of physiologists, geneticists, clinical scientists, and computational biologists, this work has resulted in the first comprehensive systems biology genetic map of cardiovascular function published in Science in 2001.

He is active in scientific and professional organizations. An active member of the American Physiological Society since 1972, he has served as a Councilor of the APS for five years and Chairman of the Water and Electrolyte Homeostasis Section. From 1997 to 1999 he served on the Executive Committee as President-elect, President, and Past-President of the APS. He served as the President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) from 2001-2005 and has served as President of the Association of Chairmen of Departments of Physiology. From 1990-1996, he served on the Executive Committee as Vice-Chairman, Chairman and Past-Chairman of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research of American Heart Association. Having served on a number of NIH study sections, he has most recently served for four years as a member of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council. He has served as an Associate Editor of more than 10 editorial boards, including four journals of APS, and since 2003 has been the Editor-in-Chief of Physiological Genomics.

Dr. Cowley is director of the NIH Specialized Center for Hypertension Research at MCW, which has as its emphasis the search for genes responsible for high blood pressure. He directs the NIH Program "Blood Pressure-Determinants and Controllers" now in its 25 th year of continuous funding. He co-directs an NIH Program of Genomic Applications (PGA) for the development of genetic model organisms that will link genes to function. He is also the director of an NIH training grant in high blood pressure research and, throughout his career, has trained more than 30 postdoctoral fellows and students. He has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Distinguished Achievement Award of the Scientific Councils of the American Heart Association in 1996, the Novartis Award from the Council for High Blood Pressure Research of the American Heart Association in 1997, the 1996 Ernest H. Starling Award and Distinguished Lectureship of the APS Water and Electrolyte Homeostasis Section, and was the recipient of the Walter B. Cannon Award of the APS in 2002.

Current research:
Mechanisms controlling blood flow to the renal medulla. Studies in our laboratory have found that reductions of medullary blood flow result in excess retention of sodium and water and lead to hypertension. Our work is now directed toward understanding the mechanisms that normally control renal medullary blood flow and how alterations in these pathways can lead to hypertension. We are looking at medullary production of reactive oxygen species within the tubules that surround the microcirculation, to determine how nitric oxide and superoxide produced in these tubules can signal changes in the regional blood flow. Other studies in our lab are directed to understanding the role of excess production of superoxide and hydrogen peroxide within a genetic rat model of salt-sensitive hypertension.

Impact of arterial pressure on the production of oxidative stress and renal injury in the renal medulla of hypertensive rats. We are conducting studies on chronically instrumented rats, in which the arterial pressure to a single kidney can be controlled at a normal level during the development of hypertension while the other kidney is exposed to the effects of the high arterial pressure. Computer controlled inflation of an aortic balloon occluder implanted on the aortic between the upper right renal artery and lower left renal artery controls these pressures over several weeks. Immunohistochemical techniques and microarray studies determine what pathways are initiated by the elevated pressure that lead to interstitial fibrosis within the hypertensive kidney.

Determine the genetic and physiological basis of protection from salt-induced hypertension resulting from the introgression of chromosome 13 from a normal BN rat into the Dahl salt-sensitive rat. We have developed 26 overlapping congenic Dahl salt-sensitive rat strains, each with a small piece of the BN chromosome 13 substituted into the Dahl salt-sensitive chromosome 13. These studies will use gene microarrays as a powerful assay system to test specific hypotheses about how genetic pathways and networks are linked to whole system physiology and the progression of hypertension. Genes differentially expressed within the small congenic regions that are associated with a protective effect from salt-induced hypertension will be further identified by positional cloning approaches.

Recent publications:

Publications as listed in PubMed

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