Photo of Bella T. Altura, PhD

Bella T. Altura, PhD

Research Professor
Physiology and Pharmacology

Biochemical Mechanisms of Magnesium in Cardiovascular and Neurological Disorders

My interests deal with the roles of magnesium in health and disease processes. Overall, our work focuses on why and how magnesium is critical for stabilization of the cardiovascular and neurological systems. We are exploring how magnesium ions control blood pressure, peripheral and cerebral blood flows, as well as cardiac contractility. To accomplish these tasks, whole animals, human subjects, tissues and cell cultures are utilized.

Our laboratory is addressing two of the most important issues in vascular biology: stroke mechanisms and atherogenesis. Our findings have already shown how magnesium-deficient states can result in atherogenesis, hypertension, strokes, and headaches. Our studies have led to the discovery of a new type of receptor on cerebral vascular and neuronal membranes. Recently, our work has led to the importance of sphingolipids and platelet-activating factor in vascular and neurological problems. Some of these findings point to new mechanisms in migraine headaches and strokes. Our work has led to the discovery and manufacture of brand-new magnesium-ion selective electrodes which can rapidly and accurately measure the ionic (physiological) concentrations of free magnesium ions in plasma, serum, whole blood and cerebral spinal fluid.

  • Nilank C. Shah, M.S., M.D., Research Associate
  • Gatha J. Shah, M.S. Pharm,. Research Associate
Service Functions

Reviewer for various journals and funding organizations

  • Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (1981). Phencyclidine, lysergic acid diethylamide, and mescaline: cerebral artery spasms and hallucinogenic activity. Science 212, 1051-1053.
  • Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (1982. The role of magnesium in etiology of strokes and cerebrovasospasm. Magnes. Exp. Clin. Res. 1, 277-291.
  • Altura, B. T., Quirion R., Pert , C. B., and Altura, B. M. (1983). Phencyclidine (angel dust) analogs and sigma-opiate benzomorphans cause cerebral arterial spasm. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 80, 865-869.
  • Altura, B. T., Altura, B. M., and Quirion R. (1984). Identification of benzomorphan-k-opiate receptors in cerebral arteries which subserve contraction. Brit. J. Pharmacol. 82, 459-466.
  • Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (1987). Endothelium-dependent relaxation in coronary arteries require magnesium ions. Brit. J. Pharmacol. 91, 449-451.
  • Altura, B. T., Brust, M., Barbour, R. L., Bloom, S., Stempak, J., and Altura, B. M. (1990). Magnesium dietary intake modulates blood lipid levels and atherogenesis. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 87, 1840-1844.
  • Altura, B. T., Shirey, T. L., Young, C. C., Dell-Orfano, K., Hiti, J., Welch, R., Yeh, Q., Barbour, R. L., and Altura, B. M. (1994). Characterization of a new ion-selective electrode for ionized magnesium in whole blood, plasma, serum and aqueous samples. Scand. J. Lab. Invest. 54 (suppl. 217), 21-36.
  • Mauskop, A., Altura, B. T., Cracco, R. Q., and Altura, B. M. (1995). Intravenous magnesium sulfate relieves migraine headache attacks in patients with low serum ionized magnesium levels. Clin. Sci. 89, 633-636.
  • Altura, B. T., Memon, Z. S., Zhang, A., Cheng, T. P.-O., Silverman, R., Cracco, R. Q., and Altura, B. M. (1997). Low levels of serum ionized magnesium are found in stroke patients early after stroke which results in rapid elevation in cytosolic free calcium and spasm in cerebral vascular smooth muscle cells. Neurosci. Lett. 230, 37-40.
  • Altura, B. M ., Li, W., Zhang, A., Zheng, T., Shah, N. C., Shah, G. J., Perez-Albela, J. J., Altura, B. T. (2016). The expression of platelet-activating factor is induced by low extracellular Mg2+ in aortic, cerebral and neonatal coronary vascular smooth muscle; cross-talk with ceramide production, NF-kB and proto-oncogenes: Possible links to atherogenesis and sudden cardiac death in children and infants, and aging: Hypothesis, review and viewpoint. Int. J. Cardiol Res. 3, 47-67.

Department Links

Physiology and Pharmacology