Carotid Body and Chemoreceptor Research Group

Carotid Body and Chemoreceptor Research Group Image

Group leader: Professor Prem Kumar


We are interested in how chemoreceptors, including the carotid body, are able to sense oxygen, carbon dioxide, glucose and other blood-borne chemicals. As these receptors are implicated in a number of cardiovascular and respiratory pathologies, the group is interested in how disease states alter receptor sensitivity and the impact of this upon cardiorespiratory reflexes.

Our research group

The sensing of arterial blood gases and other blood-borne chemicals is mediated via specialised chemoreceptor cells in the carotid body that act to initiate corrective cardiorespiratory reflexes aimed at restoring homeostasis.

Our research is aimed (i) at understanding the transduction processes involved in these cells – from the molecular mechanisms involved in detecting the stimulus through to the initiation of afferent neural signals and (ii) at understanding how chemoreflexes may be modulated by disease conditions, including sleep apnoea, diabetes, COPD and heart failure.

We undertake in vivo measurements of cardiorespiratory function and in vitro measurements of afferent neural discharge and single cell electrophysiology (patch clamp) as well as localisation of cellular proteins with immunohistochemistry. The work is complemented by associated research with collaborators in the School of Sport and Exercise Science and at Heartlands Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where human studies are performed to examine the impact of intermittent hypoxia/sleep apnoea upon cardiorespiratory control.

Current Projects

  • Chemotransduction in the carotid body: role of nitric oxide in hypoxia sensing
  • Glucose sensing by the carotid body and the role of the carotid body in hypoglycaemia-induced hyperpnoea
  • Mechanisms underlying the cardiorespiratory changes evoked by glucose dysregulation
  • Pathogenesis of the co-morbidities of obstructive sleep apnoea and diabetes
  • Influence of early chronic hypoxia and inflammation on vascular reactivity
  • Role of PHD1 in complications of OSA

Recent Publications

  • Hauton D, Holmes A, Ziff O and Kumar P (2013) The impact of acute and chronic catecholamines on respiratory responses to hypoxic stress in the rat. Pflugers Arch  465(2):209-19
  • Nunes AR, Holmes AP, Sample V, Kumar P, Cann MJ, Monteiro EC, Zhang J and Gauda EB (2013) Bicarbonate-sensitive soluble and transmembrane adenylyl cyclases in peripheral chemoreceptors. Respir Physiol Neurobiol 188(2):83-93
  • Griffin HS, Kumar P, Pugh K and Balanos GM (2012) Long-term facilitation of ventilation following acute continuous hypoxia in awake humans during sustained hypercapnia. J Physiol  590(Pt 20):5151-65
  • Kumar, P & Prabhakar NP. (2012) Peripheral Chemoreceptors: Function and Plasticity of the Carotid Body. Compr Physiol, 2: 141-219. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c100069
  • Lykidis CK, Kumar P, Vianna LC, White MJ and Balanos GM (2010) A respiratory response to the activation of the muscle metaboreflex during concurrent hypercapnia in man. Exp Physiol 95(1):194-201


Principal Investigators
Professor Prem Kumar
Dr Andy Coney
Dr Clare Ray

PhD/MRes Students
Abu Gassama
Emma Thompson
Liam O’Reilly

Internal Collaborators
George Balanos
Abd Tahrani
Daniel Tennant
Babu Naidu - Thoracic Surgeon, Heartlands Hospital
Alice Turner

NHS Collaborators
Dr Brendan Cooper (Lung Function and Sleep - University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham

External Collaborators
Professor Chris Peers

Funding Bodies

  • Linde Healthcare