UHCOP Mourns Passing of Teacher, Hypertension Researcher Mohammad Asghar
The UH College of Pharmacy family is mourning the recent passing of researcher and teacher Mohammad Ashgar, Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmacology at the college.
Asghar obtained his Ph.D. from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. Following his doctoral work on renal function studies in India, he moved to the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, where he worked as a post-doctoral fellow on a project which was aimed at investigating renal dopaminergic system. Three years later, he moved to the United States where he continued to advance his post-doctoral work in this area, in the laboratory of UHCOP Professor Mustafa Lokhandwala, Ph.D.
In 2012, following the award of his first major federal grant from National Institutes of Health, he was appointed as a tenure-track assistant professor at the college. Quickly, he dedicated himself in developing his research program, while actively participating in teaching and service activities. He fostered collaborations and sought new funding and received awards for research excellence and other accolades.
In 2015, he was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. Despite his serious illness, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical intervention, extended hospital stays and ICU admissions at The University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, he maintained his research productivity, continued new grant submissions, and maintained his Pharm.D. and graduate teaching and service activities. In 2018, he was promoted to associate professor with tenure.
Asghar's primary research focus was on the roles of aging, obesity and diabetes in the development and progression of hypertension, which is a major risk factor for stroke, heart diseases and other cardiovascular events. Although the cause of hypertension is multi-factorial, sodium (salt) is recognized as a risk factor for hypertension. Two key counter-regulatory receptor systems present in the kidney, namely angiotensin II and dopamine receptor systems, play pivotal role in the maintenance of sodium homeostasis and blood pressure. Abnormal functioning of these receptor systems is linked to the development of hypertension.
Asghar’s research identified one common entity in these pathophysiological conditions — oxido-inflammatory stress — indicating its contributory role in hypertension. For a long time, the role of the dopamine receptor system in the kidney was under-appreciated and not well understood. Asghar’s post-doctoral work highlighted the important role of sodium pump in regulation of renal dopamine signaling (published in a 1998 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), suggesting a significant role of dopamine system in kidney function.
Building on this earlier pioneering work, his research findings suggested that oxidative stress in the kidney, and the resultant dysfunction of the renal D1 dopamine receptor system was a major contributor to age-associated hypertension. This evidence provided important mechanistic connections between oxidative stress in the kidney and changes in the function of renal D1 receptor and its association with hypertension (reported in a 2006 issue of Free Radical Biology and Medicine and a 2009 issue of the American Journal of Physiology).
His research added another layer of complexity to the mechanistic understanding of age-related hypertension when his lab discovered that two key counter-regulatory receptor systems not only play a pivotal role in the maintenance of sodium homeostasis and blood pressure, but also that oxidative stress and inflammation operate as biochemical switches that regulate kidney function. The identification of this renal-specific origin of oxidative stress offers the potential of a novel therapeutic target for amelioration and/or prevention of hypertension in the aging population (published in a 2012 issue of Hypertension). His laboratory broadly focused on how oxidative and inflammatory stressors adversely affect the functioning of kidney dopamine and angiotensin II receptor systems and contribute to hypertension.
In his lab, researchers were engaged in asking some of these highly critical and complex questions in animal and cell culture models using state-of-the-art multidisciplinary approaches, which served as the focus of his multiple NIH awards. In addition to having his research published in high-quality journals, he presented his research through invited seminars, international meetings, and focused conferences. He was involved in service as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, and different international granting agencies.
One of his favorite roles as a faculty member was to mentor student researchers in the laboratory. He mentored two graduate students, three undergraduate students, two high school students, and one international undergraduate researcher, and also served as a rotation advisor to three graduate students and graduate student thesis committee member in not only his own department, but also in other departments at UH and external institutions.
Asghar, born in 1966, passed away Feb. 2 at MD Anderson. He is survived by his wife of 24 years and department colleague, Samina Salim, Ph.D., and their daughter, Saman Asghar, a junior at the University of Texas at Austin.