Gary Pierce, PhD

Contact Information

Office: 412 FH 
Phone: 319-335-9487 
Faculty Profile

Brief description of current research:

The goal of my research is to understand the mechanisms that contribute to macro- and micro- vascular dysfunction with aging, obesity, hypertension and prediabetes in humans.  We use an integrative experimental approach, including non-invasive and semi-invasive approaches to assess vascular function in human subjects and study cells/tissues (endothelial cells, mononuclear cells, blood, adipose) from humans to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in abnormal vascular function.  Our goal is translating basic science discoveries into clinically relevant treatments in humans by testing the efficacy of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions on cardiovascular structure and function in adults at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease.  We are particularly interested in the role that vascular inflammation and oxidative stress play in the development of arterial endothelial dysfunction and large elastic artery (e.g. aorta, carotid) stiffness in these adults at high risk for vascular diseases. I have specific expertise in measuring endothelial function in human subjects including brachial artery flow-mediated dilation, forearm blood flow during intra-brachial artery infusions of vasoactive drugs, and assessment of aortic and carotid artery stiffness via pulse wave velocity via applanation tonometry and high resolution echocardiography.  Human studies are complemented with novel ex vivo quantification of expression of selected proteins from primary vascular endothelial cells from human subjects and in vitro studies in cultured human aortic endothelial cells in order to gain translational insight into cellular/molecular mechanisms that contribute to vascular dysfunction and the responses to drug and lifestyle interventions.  

3 most influential diabetes/obesity/metabolism publications:

  • Pierce GL. Targeting vascular endothelial insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: is protein kinase C beta the bullseye for reducing vascular risk in diabetes? Circulation 2013;127:16-18.
  • Pierce GL, Zhu H, Darracott K, Edet I, Bhagatwala J, Huang Y, Dong Y.  Arterial stiffness and pulse pressure amplification in overweight/obese African-American adolescents: relation with higher systolic and pulse pressure. Am J Hypertens 2013;26:20-26.
  • Pierce GL, Lesniewski LA, Lawson BR, Beske SD, Seals DR.  Nuclear factor-kB activation contributes to vascular endothelial dysfunction via oxidative stress in overweight/obese middle-aged and older humans. Circulation 2009;119:1284-1292.127:16-18


My immediate and extended family has a long history of prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease and the vascular complications associated from these diseases.  My goal is to take novel findings discovered in the basic labs and test these interventions in adults with obesity and prediabetes to directly test whether these therapies prevent or reverse the vascular complications associated with aging, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.