Rolf Bunger, M.D., Ph.D.

Rolf Bunger, M.D., Ph.D.

Name: Rolf Bunger, M.D., Ph.D.

Department of Primary Appointment: Anatomy, Physiology & Genetics
Position: USU Faculty
Title: Professor

Email: (link sends e-mail)
Office Phone: (301) 295-9365


  • University of Hamburg 1970, University of Munich 1979

Molecular and cellular mechanisms of Physiology and Biochemistry of the heart, brain, and circulation in health, disease. Reversible vs. irreversible cell/organ damage: cardiac stunning, hibernation, infarct, necrosis and apoptosis (programmed cell death). Linking molecular, cellular and systemic physiological mechanisms. Pursuit of interdisciplinary efforts to combine holistic and reductionistic approaches to elucidate cellular physiological and molecular mechanisms in health and disease. Develop the therapeutic potential of metabolic interventions as distinct from pharmacologically based signal transduction and molecular genetic engineering. One of our ongoing efforts has been to improve therapeutic regimens currently used in heart lung bypass procedures and hemorrhagic shock. The fundamental concept is that it should be feasible to metabolically protect the myocardium as well as other high-energy-turnover tissues (brain, kidney, liver) and perhaps the organism as a whole using appropriate metabolic as opposed to traditional medical or pharmacological interventions. We are looking at metabolic strategies that can set cellular redox states and energy potentials in such away that the specific cell function becomes better sustainable and more robust during periods of acute stress such as hypoxemia, ischemia, reperfusion, catecholamine or other toxicities including humoral complement activation, oxidative stress and recovery there from. Currently we are focusing on two natural compounds that appear to satisfy, in part, these requirements: pyruvate, a non-receptor-linked glycolytic metabolite, and adenosine, a vasoactive ATP catabolite that serves also as precursor of the vital cellular adenylates and is a ligand at purinergic receptors throughout the body, heart and brain in particular.

Ongoing Research

  • Adenosine and complement interactions in vivo (PI, USUHS-supported)
  • Energetic cost of calcium control in malignant hyperthermia (Co-PI, USUHS-supported)
  • Adenosine and pyruvate protection during heart surgery (Collaborator, NIH-supported collaboration, RM Mentzer, PI, UKY)

Military Significance

Shock/resuscitation research may lead to more efficient use of limited blood banking resources under field conditions. The metabolic intervention has the potential of becoming a useful adjunct regimen for existing parenteral medical and pharmacological procedures in clinical medicine emergency scenarios.


  • Cardiovascular physiology
  • Histology for 1st year medical students

Technology Transfer with Licensed Invention

US Patent # 5,714,515 licensed to RTS industries in 1999, Ronald T. Stanko CEO. (Patent expires in 2014)

Editorial Board

American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulation, since 1999

Merit Review

North American and European funding institutions: including NIH, NSF, NASA, Veterans Administration, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development, NATO, Dutch Heart Foundation, Canadian Research Council, Human Frontier Science Program of France, Italian Space Agency. American and European Biomedical Journals: Circulation, Cardiovascular Research, American Journal Of Physiology, Circulation Research, British Journal Of Pharmacology and many other biomedical Research Journals

Invited Speaker and Lecturer

Sixty nine national and international invited presentations and lectures

Textbook Chapters and Reviews

In: Textbook of Angiology: R. Bünger, P. Gwirtz: Coronary Vasculature and Endothelium. Editor: J.B. Chang, Long Island Vascular Center, New York. Springer Verlag 1999

In: The heart and cardiovascular system, vol I, 2nd edition. R.A. Olsson, R. Bünger, J.A.E. Spann: Coronary Circulation. Fozard, H.A., Haber, E., Jennings, R.B., Katz, A.M., Morgan, H.E., eds.; Raven Press, New York, pp 1391-1426, 1991

In: Myocardial Energy Metabolism. R. Bünger, RT MALLET, DA HARTMAN: Redox manipulation of cytosolic phosphorylation potential and purine nucleoside release in perfused working heart. Martinus Nijhoff. The NETHERLANDS. J.W. deJong, ed., pp. 67-81, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster 1988

In: Progress in Cardiovasc Diseases. 29, 369-387,1987. R.A. Olsson, R. Bünger: Metabolic control of coronary flow.