Ken Olson Adjunct Professor

Cardiovascular Physiology
Ken Olson

Research Interests:

Blood vessels are uniquely designed to detect low oxygen (hypoxia) and regulate blood flow accordingly. Hypoxia dilates systemic vessels (e.g., coronary arteries) to match oxygen delivery with metabolic demand and pulmonary arteries constrict to optimize gas exchange in the lung. My laboratory has identified a novel oxygen “sensing” mechanism using hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Known for centuries as a toxic and malodorous gas with the smell of rotten eggs, H2S has recently come to the fore as an endogenously produced signaling molecule in the cardiovascular, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems. My research involves three aspects of H2S biology; 1) the role of H2S in oxygen sensing in the cardiovascular system, 2) H2S production and metabolism in tissues, and 3) the applicability of a variety of newly developed H2S-donating drugs in physiology and medicine. These studies are especially relevant to coronary artery disease, stroke, COPD, sleep apnea and altitude acclimation.



  • Professor of Physiology (Emeritus), Indiana University School of Medicine - South Bend
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Notre Dame
  • Concurrent Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Notre Dame
  • Michigan State University; Ph.D.; Physiology 1972
  • Michigan State University; MS; Physiology 1970
  • University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse; BS; Majors in Chemistry and Biology 1969


Recent Papers:

  • Olson, K.R., 2020. Are Reactive Sulfur Species the New Reactive Oxygen Species? Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. (In Press).
  • Olson, K.R., 2020. Reactive oxygen species or reactive sulfur species: why we should consider the latter. J Exp Biol: (In Press).
  • Olson, K. R., Briggs, A., Devireddy, M., Iovino, N. A., Skora, N. C., Whelan, J., Villa, B. P., Yuan, X., Mannam, V., Howard,, S., Gao, Y., Minnion, M., Feelisch, M. , 2020. Green tea polyphenolic antioxidants oxidize hydrogen sulfide to thiosulfate and, polysulfides: A possible new mechanism underpinning their biological action. Redox Biology (In Press).
  • Olson, K.R., Gao, Y., DeLeon, E.R., Markel, T.A., Drucker, N., Boone, D., Whiteman, M., Steiger, A.K., Pluth, M.D., Tessier, C.R., Stahelin, R.V., 2020. Extended hypoxia-mediated H2S production provides for long-term oxygen sensing. Acta physiologica 228, (In Press).
  • Olson, K.R., Gao, Y., Steiger, A.K., Pluth, M.D., Tessier, C.R., Markel, T.A., Boone, D., Stahelin, R.V., Batinic-Haberle, I., Straubg, K.D., 2020. Effects of Manganese Porphyrins on Cellular Sulfur Metabolism. Molecules (in Press).
  • Jensen, A.R., Drucker, N.A., Olson, K.R., Markel, T.A., 2020. Stem Cell Therapy and Hydrogen Sulfide: Conventional or Nonconventional Mechanisms of Action? Shock, 53:737-743.
  • Markel, T. A., Drucker, N. A., Jensen, A. R.. Olson, K. R., 2020, Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Hydrogen Sulfide Production Critically Impacts the Release of Other Paracrine Mediators After Injury. J Surg Res, 254:75-82.
  • Olson, K.R., 2019. Hydrogen sulfide, reactive sulfur species and coping with reactive oxygen species. Free Radic Biol Med 140, 74-83.
  • Olson, K.R., Briggs, A., Devireddy, M., Xian, M., Gao, Y., 2019. Are the beneficial effects of 'antioxidant' lipoic acid mediated through metabolism of reactive sulfur species? Free Radic Biol Med. 146:139-149.
  • Olson, K.R., Gao, Y., Arif, F., Patel, S., Yuan, X., Mannam, V., Howard, S., Batinic-Haberle, I., Fukuto, J., Minnion, M., Feelisch, M., Straub, K.D., 2019. Manganese Porphyrin-Based SOD Mimetics Produce Polysulfides from Hydrogen Sulfide. Antioxidants (Basel) (in press).
  • Drucker, N.A., Te Winkel, J.P., Shelley, W.C., Olson, K.R., Markel, T.A., 2019. Inhibiting hydrogen sulfide production in umbilical stem cells reduces their protective effects during experimental necrotizing enterocolitis. Journal of Pediatric Surgery 54, 1168-1173.
  • Te Winkel, J., John, Q., Hosfield, B., Drucker, N., Das, A., Olson, K., Markel, T.A., 2019. Mesenchymal Stem Cells Promote Mesenteric Vasodilation Through Hydrogen Sulfide and Endothelial Nitric Oxide. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 317:G441-446.
  • Olson, K.R., 2018. H2S and polysulfide metabolism: Conventional and unconventional pathways. Biochemical pharmacology 149, 77-90.