Richard Alan Cohen, MD

Professor of Medicinecohen

View NIH Biographical Sketch


Bowdoin College AB 1972
Johns Hopkins University MD 1976

General field of research:

Vascular Biology

Affiliations other than medicine:

Co-PI BUSM NIH Cardiovascular Proteomics Center

Contact information:

X727, 650 Albany St.



cardiovascular disease, vascular biology, nitric oxide, oxidants

Summary of academic interest:

A professor of Medicine, Physiology, and Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Dr. Cohen is the Jay and Louise Coffman Professor of Medicine and Director of the Vascular Biology Unit. Dr. Cohen is also the Co-principal Investigator of the Boston University Cardiovascular Proteomics Center. Dr. Cohen is also a recipient of an R37 MERIT award from the NHLBI and is currently the PI or Co-PI of 6 NIH investigator initiated research studies. In 2008 he was named to a 5 year Robert Dawson Evans Scholar Award by the Department of Medicine. He is a former recipient of the American Heart Association Clinician Investigator and the Established Investigator awards. He is past president of the American Federation for Medical Research and founding president of the American Federation for Medical Research Foundation. Dr. Cohen is distinguished by his elections to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He is an elected Fellow of the Cardiovascular Section of the American Physiological Society. He is a member of the editorial boards of the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology and Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, and Free Radical Biology and Medicine. Dr. Cohen is a past member of the NIH Experimental Cardiovascular Study Section and currently serves as an ad hoc reviewer for several NIH review groups. The research in the Vascular Biology Unit which Dr. Cohen directs focuses on the effect of vascular and metabolic disease on the function of blood vessels with special emphasis on the role of endothelium-derived nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species. The roles of redox-mediated post-translational protein modifications of cardiovascular proteins including the sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase, sirtuin-1, and p21ras in cell signaling and disease are a current focus. Applications of these basic areas are currently bein g pursued in funded programs with respect to clinical areas problems of atherosclerosis, impaired ischemia-induced angiogenesis, arterial stiffness, hypertension, and failure of hemodialysis fistulae.

Summary of research interest:

The Vascular Biology Unit led by Dr. Richard Cohen seeks to understand how nitric oxide and oxidants regulate the function of blood vessels. His group has found that in diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis, the vasodilator, nitric oxide is inactivated by superoxide, an oxidant produced in diseased blood vessels. As a result of this reaction a potent oxidant, peroxynitrite, is formed. Sustained high levels of peroxynitrite cause irreversible chemical modifications, inducing nitrotyrosine or sulfonic acid cysteine modifications, and thus inactivate important proteins such as manganese superoxide dismutase or the sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase. At low levels, reactive oxygen and nitrogen species including peroxynitrite and hydrogen peroxide can induce reversible protein modifications such as S-glutathione cysteine adducts that redox regulate the function of many proteins including the sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase, p21ras, and sirtuin-1, thereby physiologically modulating cell signaling. As part of the BU Cardiovascular Proteomics Center, Dr. Cohen and his group are identifying chemical modifications of proteins formed by oxidants with mass spectrometric and protein tagging strategies. These modifications may serve as biomarkers for abnormal cell signaling and/or metabolic disease. Such markers have been found in diseased human arteries, platelets, and the blood.

Recent publications:

1: Burgoyne JR, Haeussler DJ, Kumar V, Ji Y, Pimental DR, Zee RS, Costello CE, Lin C, McComb ME, Cohen RA, Bachschmid MM. Oxidation of HRas cysteine thiols by metabolic stress prevents palmitoylation in vivo and contributes to endothelial cell apoptosis. FASEB J. 2011 Nov 15. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22085642.

2: Pimentel D, Haeussler DJ, Matsui R, Burgoyne J, Cohen RA, Bachschmid M. Regulation of cell physiology and pathology by protein S-glutathionylation. Lessons learned from the cardiovascular system. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Oct 19. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22010840.

3: Xu S, Jiang B, Hou X, Shi C, Bachschmid MM, Zang M, Verbeuren TJ, Cohen RA. High-fat diet increases and the polyphenol, S17834, decreases acetylation of the sirtuin-1-dependent lysine-382 on p53 and apoptotic signaling in atherosclerotic lesion-prone aortic endothelium of normal mice. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2011 Sep;58(3):263-71. PubMed PMID: 21654327; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3168693.

4: Xu S, Zhi H, Hou X, Cohen RA, Jiang B. IκBβ attenuates angiotensin II-induced cardiovascular inflammation and fibrosis in mice. Hypertension. 2011 Aug;58(2):310-6. Epub 2011 Jun 6. PubMed PMID: 21646597; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3141280.

5: Li Y, Xu S, Mihaylova MM, Zheng B, Hou X, Jiang B, Park O, Luo Z, Lefai E, Shyy JY, Gao B, Wierzbicki M, Verbeuren TJ, Shaw RJ, Cohen RA, Zang M. AMPK phosphorylates and inhibits SREBP activity to attenuate hepatic steatosis and atherosclerosis in diet-induced insulin-resistant mice. Cell Metab. 2011 Apr 6;13(4):376-88. PubMed PMID: 21459323; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3086578.

6: Tong X, Hou X, Jourd’heuil D, Weisbrod RM, Cohen RA. Upregulation of Nox4 by TGF{beta}1 oxidizes SERCA and inhibits NO in arterial smooth muscle of the prediabetic Zucker rat. Circ Res. 2010 Oct 15;107(8):975-83. Epub 2010 Aug 19. PubMed PMID: 20724704; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2955842.

7: Bachschmid MM, Xu S, Maitland-Toolan KA, Ho YS, Cohen RA, Matsui R. Attenuated cardiovascular hypertrophy and oxidant generation in response to angiotensin II infusion in glutaredoxin-1 knockout mice. Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Oct 15;49(7):1221-9. Epub 2010 Jul 16. PubMed PMID: 20638471; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2930025.