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. (2014) Hydrogen sulfide as an oxygen sensor. Antioxid. Redox Signal. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Olson,K.R., DeLeon,E. And Lui,F. (2014) Controversies and conundrums in hydrogen sulfide biology. Nitric Oxide doi: 10.1016/j.niox.2014.05.012
  • Olson, K.R. (2013) Hydrogen sulfide as an oxygen sensor. Clin.Chem.Lab.Med. 51:623-632. Doi:10.1515
  • Calzia, E., Radermacher, P. and Olson, K.R. (2012) Endogenous H2S in hemorrhagic shock: innocent bystander or central player? Critical Care 16:183.
  • Olson, K.R. (2012) A Practical Look at the Chemistry and Biology of Hydrogen Sulfide Antioxidants and Redox Signaling 17:32-44 (doi:10.1089/ars.2011.4401).
  • Olson, K.R. (2012) Mitochondrial adaptations to utilize hydrogen sulfide for energy and signaling. J.Comp.Physiol. 182:881-897.
  • Olson, K.R., Donald, J.A., Dombkowski, R.A., Perry, S.F. (2012) Evolutionary and Comparative Aspects of Nitric Oxide, Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Sulfide. Resp. Physiol.Neurobiol. 184:117-129.
  • Kashfi, K. and Olson, K.R. (2012) Biology and therapeutic potential of hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen sulfide-releasing chimeras. Biochem. Pharmacol. 85:689-703.
  • Olson.K.R., DeLeon,E.R., Gao,Y., Hurley,K., Sadauskas,V, Batz,C. And Stoy,G.F. (2013) Thiosulfate: a Readily Accessible Source of Hydrogen Sulfide in Oxygen Sensing. Am.J.Physiol.Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 305: R592.-R603.
  • Olson, K.R. (2013) A Theoretical examination hydrogen sulfide metabolism and its potential in autocrine/paracrine oxygen sensing. Resp. Physiol. Neurobiol. 186: 173-179.
  • Skovgaard, N, Olson, K.R. (2012) Hydrogen sulfide mediates hypoxic vasoconstriction through a production of mitochondrial ROS in trout gills. Am.J.Physiol.Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 303:R487-R494.
  • Chattopadhyay,M., Kodel,R. Olson,K.R., Kashfi,K. (2012) NOSH-aspirin (NBS-1120), a novel nitric oxide- and hydrogen sulfide-releasing hybrid is a potent inhibitor of colon cancer cell growth in vitro and in a xenograft mouse model. Biochem.Biophys.Res.Commun. 491:523-528.
  • Madden,J.A.; Ahlf,S.B.; Dantuma,M.W.; Olson,K.R.; Roerig,D.L.(2012) Precursors and inhibitors of hydrogen sulfide synthesis affect acute hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction in the intact lung. J.Appl.Physiol. 112:411-418 (doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01049.2011).
  • Dombkowski,R.A. Naylor,M.G. Shoemaker,E. Smith,M. DeLeon,E.R. Stoy,G.F. Gao,Y., Olson,K.R. (2011) Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and hypoxia inhibit salmonid gastrointestinal motility: evidence for H2S as an oxygen sensor. J.Exp.Biol. 214:4030-4040.