Department of Physiology
The Department was established in 1964 by Prof. A.S. Paintal, a doyen among Indian physiologists. The aims of the Department are to conduct fundamental and applied physiological research of the viscera in general and the heart and lungs in particular, to train post-graduate students and to devise new technology for better health care.
For more than four decades, the focus of research has been mainly on the sensory receptors of the cardiopulmonary region, their locations, natural stimuli, projections to the higher centers and the reflexes produced by their activations. Several sensory receptors have been identified for the first time. These include the type J receptors responding to pressure changes in the pulmonary interstitium, the type B atrial receptors responding to atrial filling, the ventricular receptors responsible for the Bezold Zarisch reflex, the gastric stretch receptors involved in short term satiety and the pressor-pain receptors of muscle increasing ventilation during exercise. The natural stimulus for the airway rapidly adapting receptors and their functional significance in asthma, left ventricular dysfunction, cigarette smoke inhalation and high altitude exposure have been established with certainty. New reflexes such as the “J reflex” and “pulmonary renal reflex” have been reported. The afferent and efferent pathways for the Bainbridge reflex have been re-investigated. The cardiac pacemaker has been shown to regulate the pulse synchronized contractions of the great blood vessels. Animal models for studies on hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, heart failure and asthma have been developed. Vascular endothelial and airway epithelial dysfunctions in the disease models have been studied. The Department is currently investigating higher nervous control of the pulmonary renal reflex, mechanisms regulating the activity of the edema center in hypothalamus, brain nitric oxide in high altitude stress and modulation of myelinated vagal afferent activity by anti-oxidants in an animal model of asthma.
Another area of interest is studies pertaining to sleep apnea. In patients with established obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, it has been shown that there is improvement in sleep behavior following the intake of anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E or N-acetylcysteine. With N-acetylcysteine, there is a reduction in snore characteristics also. The results are promising and suggest a new therapeutic option for these patients.
All these contributions have resulted in publications in prestigious journals such as Nature, Science, Journal of Physiology, American Journal of Physiology, Journal of Applied Physiology, Experimental Physiology, Respiration Physiology etc., The faculty has written articles for Physiological Reviews, Pharmacological Reviews, Ergbn Physiology, Respiration Physiology & Neurobiology etc., They have been members of Editorial Board as well as are reviewers of national and international journals and are invited to give lectures and orations.
The Department continues to attract students for pursuing MD and Ph.D., degrees. In fulfilling its goals, the Department was ably served by Dr. Paintal, Dr. P.D. Gupta, Dr. M.S. Devanandan, Dr. P. Gill Kumar, Dr. P.S. Rao and Dr. M. Fahim. The current Head of the Department is Professor Krishnan Ravi. He is an established investigator in respiratory physiology. Dr. Vishal Bansal works as Assistant Professor and is looking after the pulmonary rehabilitation programme.