Cardiorespiratory Physiology Lab

Our Research

I am trained as a cardiorespiratory whole-animal physiologist and continue these interests today. My lab uses multiple techniques to monitor blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate/depth in order to answer our research questions. Our overarching goals are to uncover mechanisms responsible for the regulation of breathing and blood pressure, with emphasis on neural control of these systems.

We are currently funded by the National Institutes of Health (1R15HD0763793R15HD0763793R15HD076379) to investigate the neural and muscular components of breathing in a model of Down syndrome. Down Syndrome (Ds) is the most common chromosomal cause of intellectual disability that results from triplication of chromosome 21 genes. Persons with Ds demonstrate cognitive deficits in addition to co-morbidities that often accompany Ds, including cardiovascular abnormalities, thyroid disease, obesity, hypotonia and muscle weakness, upper airway obstructions, and sleep apnea. Although sleep apnea is a prevalent disorder in children and adults with Ds, the mechanisms responsible for these breathing deficits have not been elucidated. Our preliminary data reveal attenuated minute ventilation and mean inspiratory flow, and an increased number of apneas in Ts65Dn mice, a model of Ds; suggestive of ventilation deficits that may have a neural origin. Preliminary data also suggest impaired force production of diaphragm muscle from Ts65Dn mice in response to fatiguing muscle contractions. Together, these data suggest that the altered breathing patterns observed in Ts65Dn mice could be derived from neural and muscular origins. Our current experiments are further examining neural and diaphragm muscle contributions to breathing alterations in Ts65Dn mice and examine the activity of the proteasome, a major cellular proteolytic system, in the C3-C5 region of the spinal cord as a potential mechanism of breathing alterations. Overall, this project focuses on the physiological systems that modulate breathing in Ds with the objective of improving the quality of life of persons with this condition. These experiments support the sciences at Le Moyne College and engage undergraduate students in biomedical research to train the next generation of researchers.

Other ongoing projects include: circadian changes in cardiorespiratory dynamics, capsaicin modulation of breathing, cardiorespiratory alterations in response to isoflurane anesthesia, impact of the proteasome on the control of breathing.


Recent DeRuisseau Lab Member Research Awards

  • Ashley Loeven: American Physiological Society Horwitz/Horowitz Outstanding Undergraduate Abstract Award and the Horwitz/Horowitz Excellence in Undergraduate Research award.
  • Brianna Eassa: American Physiological Society Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship. Press release:
  • Dr. Candace Receno (post-doctoral fellow): American Physiological Society Minority Travel Award.
  • Taylor Glausen: American Physiological Society David Bruce Undergraduate Abstract Award.
  • Angela Le: American Physiological Society David Bruce Undergraduate Abstract Award.
  • Michelle Zoccollo: Mid-atlantic Regional American Society of Sports Medicine Undergraduate Abstract Award.


Information for Undergraduates

If you are interested in joining the lab, you must have at least two, three-hour blocks during business hours that can be devoted to lab time. Please send a schedule of your availability along with your reasons for wanting to the join the group. A two-semester commitment is required.

Safety is our first priority at all times! Students will have proper training in all techniques.

Before any student may begin work with animals, they must take an intensive training course including hands-on instruction. The ethics of working with animals are of highest importance and will be emphasized throughout your time in the lab. All of our projects are approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Techniques currently being performed in the DeRuisseau Lab that undergraduates may be involved with:

Conscious breathing in mice using barometric plethysmography

This technique uses pressure transducers to monitor the pattern of breathing. The mouse is placed into a chamber where they can explore and move freely. The experimenter waits for the mouse to reach quiet breathing while continuous fresh air is pumped into the chamber.   

Analysis of breathing traces

This is computer based work that can be accomplished at the lab. It involves learning how to recognize certain types of breathes (quiet breathing, apneas, augmented breathes) and using computer software to perform calculations. Analyzing breaths requires a strong attention to detail and comfort with excel. 

Awake blood pressure in mice

Mouse blood pressure can be collected by using cuffs on the tail. During these experiments, the temperature of the mouse is closely monitored to stay within 1°C of resting body temperature, 37°C. All of these experiments are performed at the same time of day to control for variations in circadian rhythms.

Pulse oximetry

The method monitors the oxygen saturation of the blood, similar the the “red light” that is placed on a human’s finger at a physician’s office. It can be performed in conscious or anesthetized mice, depending on the research question. Recent DeRuisseau Lab graduate, Ashley Loeven, used this technique as part of her Integral Honors Thesis. 

Pulse wave velocity

This non-invasive method measures arterial stiffness. Using ECG (electrocardiogram) and a pressure tonometer, the pulse wave of the femoral artery is monitored along with the distance from the heart to the artery. The distance traveled is divided by the start of the pulse wave (how long the pulse takes to go from the heart to the leg). 

Skeletal and aortic tension

These experiments monitor the in vitro force generated by either skeletal muscle or aorta. Typically, undergrads assist in these experiments that are run by either Dr. DeRuisseau, graduate or post-doctoral fellows due to their time-intensiveness. Undergraduates could become autonomous with these experiments during the summer.