Luis Fernando Santana is a Professor in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics at the University of Washington. He obtained his PhD in Physiology from the University of Maryland-Baltimore. Dr. Santana’s PhD thesis focused on the mechanisms by which action potentials that originate in pace-making cells in the sinoatrial node propagate via gap junctions through the atria and ventricles of the heart to evoke contraction of ventricular myocytes. This chain of events is known as excitation-contraction (EC) coupling. Related events that modulate cardiac gene expression proceed via excitation-transcription (ET) coupling pathways. Both processes can contribute to arrhythmogenic disorders, a major cause of sudden death in otherwise healthy individuals.
Research in Dr. Santana’s laboratory centers on the mechanisms underlying EC coupling and ET coupling in ventricular myocytes during physiological and pathological conditions. He uses a multidisciplinary approach in his research, which includes patch-clamp electrophysiology, confocal and TIRF imaging as well as telemetry and molecular biological techniques. Using these approaches, their team investigates the following issues related to EC and ET coupling in cardiac and arterial smooth muscle. First, what are the mechanisms regulating Ca2+ influx via voltage-gated Ca2+ channels in cardiac and arterial smooth muscle? Second, which Ca2+ signaling modalities control the activation of the transcription factor NFATc3 in these cells?