Department of Medicine

Department of Medicine

 Division of Renal-Electrolyte

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photo Sean D Stocker, PhD

Director, Basic and Translational Research - University of Pittsburgh Hypertension Center


Phone: 717-805-5862

Office: S975 Scaife
3550 Terrace Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone: 717-805-5862
Education and Training
B.S., Allegheny College, 1997
PhD, University of Pittsburgh - Neuroscience, 2002
Postdoctoral, University of Texas HSC at San Antonio, 2005
Research Interest
Excess dietary salt intake is strongly correlated with cardiovascular disease and is regarded as a major contributing factor to the pathogenesis of hypertension. Compelling evidence indicates that dietary salt acts centrally with other factors (ie, genetic, hormonal) to elevate sympathetic nerve activity, blood pressure variability, and blood pressure. We utilize a variety of approaches that include in vivo cardiovascular monitoring, in vivo neurophysiology, in vitro electrophysiology, opto and chemogenetic tools, functional neuroanatomy, and translational studies in humans.

Project 1 (NIH R01 HL113270 and AHA Established Investigator Award). Time-controlled studies in both humans and animals indicate excess dietary salt intake elevates plasma or cerebrospinal fluid sodium concentrations to subsequently elevate sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure. A major goal of our laboratory is to identify the cellular mechanisms that permit specialized “sodium-sensing neurons” or osmoreceptors in the brain to sense changes in sodium concentration and how causes salt-sensitive hypertension.

Project 2 (NIH R01 HL128388 and AHA Established Investigator Award). Excess dietary salt intake causes target organ damage and increases the risk for adverse cardiovascular events independent of blood pressure. Recent observations from our laboratory indicate high dietary salt enhances the excitability of sympathetic circuits, exaggerates sympathetic and cardiovascular responses to various stimuli, and increases blood pressure variability. A major goal of this project is to (1) evaluate the impact of dietary salt intake on sympathetic reflexes and blood pressure variability in normotensive humans, and (2) to identify novel mechanisms underlying these adverse neurogenic effects of dietary salt using salt-resistant rodents.
Sponsored Research/Activities
Title: Stocker AHA Mentor/Mentee Award
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: American Heart Association-National
Grant Number: RES
Start Year: 2017
End Year: 2018
Title: Central Osmosensory Mechanisms in Salt-Sensitive Hypertension
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: National Institute of Health
Grant Number: R01 HL113270
Start Year: 2016
End Year: 2018
Title: Adverse Neurogenic Actions of Dietary Salt
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: University of Delaware
Grant Number: R01 HL128388
Start Year: 2016
End Year: 2020
Notable Achievements
Fellow of the American Heart Association, 2009
American Heart Association, Established Investigator Award, 2012-2016
American Physiological Society Henry Pickering Bowditch, 2016