Dr Ho’s research focuses on pharmacology (how drugs work) and physiology (how biological systems work). Since joining St George’s in 2008, she has established a laboratory specialising in research on vascular control and cannabinoid signalling.
Prior to this, Dr Ho obtained a MA in Natural Sciences (Pharmacology) and a PhD in vascular pharmacology (with Dr Robin Hiley) from the University of Cambridge. Her PhD study demonstrated the diverse vascular actions of endocannabinoids, which are cannabis-like chemicals produced by the body, and hinted at a novel signalling target in blood vessels. This reinforced her longstanding interest in vascular pharmacology and sparked a desire to better understand the pharmacology and physiology of cannabinoids.
Dr Ho became a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Cecilia Hillard at the Medical College of Wisconsin, USA. In the renowned neuroscience laboratory there, which specialises in endocannabinoid signalling and metabolism, she examined the functional relevance of endocannabinoids in small blood vessels of the brain. This included the coupling between neuronal activity and local cerebral blood flow. During this period, Dr Ho’s research also expanded to endocannabinoid signalling in anxiety and depression.
Following this work, Dr Ho was awarded the prestigious Anne McLaren Fellowship (University of Nottingham). Working with Professor Michael Randall and Professor Sheila Gardiner, she initiated an independent project on cardiovascular regulation by endocannabinoids, and began to explore the potential changes in endocannabinoid signalling in hypertension.
Dr Ho is an active member of several learned societies. She was a member of the British Pharmacological Society Meetings Committee, and serves as session chair and abstract and presentation referee at conferences organised by the British Pharmacological Society and the International Cannabinoid Research Society. She is currently the Physiological Society representative at St George’s. She has also received travel awards from the International Cannabinoid Research Society and the Physiological Society.
Dr Ho is also the Athena Swan lead for the Institute of Medical and Biomedical Education.
Dr Ho’s teaching responsibilities span all three years of the BSc Biomedical Science degree. They include being a small group tutor, lecturer, demonstrator and organiser of practicals, leader of taught modules, and personal tutor, as well as the organiser of the personal tutor system. She also provides lectures for other undergraduate students (Medicine MBBS, BSc Healthcare Science) and postgraduate students (MRes, PhD). She supervises research projects at undergraduate (BSc and iBSc) and postgraduate levels (MRes and PhD).
Dr Ho is Personal Tutor Organiser for the BSc in Biomedical Science and holes several organisational roles for this course.
She is joint module coordinator for the third year module 'Pharmacology and Physiology of Drugs of Abuse'. She is also module coordinator for the second year module 'Special Study Project 2', and module coordinator for the third year module 'Research Projects in Physiological Science'.
Dr Ho holds examination responsibilities for: BSc Biomedical Science, five year MBBS Medicine, MPharm Pharmacy, Postgraduate Certificate in Research Skills, MRes Biomedical Science, and MPhil to PhD transfer. She is an external examiner for several UK universities (MSc and PhD).
- Ho WSV, Davis AJ, Chadha PS and Greenwood IA (2013). Effective contractile response to voltage-gated Na+ channels revealed by a channel activator. American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology 204: C739-747.
- Ho WSV (2013). Modulation by 17ß-estradiol of anandamide vasorelaxation in mormotensive and hypertensive rats: a role for TRPV1 but not fatty acid amide hydrolase. European Journal of Pharmacology 701:49-56.
- Ho WSV, Hill MN, Miller GE, Gorzalka BB and Hillard CJ (2012). Serum contents of endocannabinoids are correlated with blood pressure in depressed women. Lipids in Health and Disease 11:32.
- Thakore P and Ho WSV (2011). Vascular actions of calcimimetics: role of Ca2+-sensing receptors versus Ca2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels. British Journal of Pharmacology 162: 749-762.
- Ho WSV, Patel S, Thompson JR, Roberts CJ, Ktuhr KL and Hillard CJ (2010). Endocannabinoid modulation of synaptic activity evoked by physiologically relevant stimuli in the rat primary somatosensory cortex. British Journal of Pharmacology 160: 736-746.
- N Parmar and Ho, WSV (2010). N-arachidonoyl glycine, an endogenous lipid that acts as vasorelaxant via nitric oxide and large-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels. British Journal of Pharmacology, 160: 594-603.
- Ho WSV and Randall MD (2007). Endothelium-dependent metabolism by endocannabinoid hydrolases and cyclooxygenases limits vasorelaxation to anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. British Journal of Pharmacology 150, 641-651.
- Hillard CJ, Ho WSV, Thompson JR, Gauthier KM, Wheelock CE and Hammock BD (2007). Inhibition of 2-arachidonoylglycerol catabolism modulates vasoconstriction of rat middle cerebral artery by the thromboxane mimetic, U-46619. British Journal of Pharmacology 152, 691-698.
- Ho WSV and Hiley CR (2003). Vasodilator actions of abnormal-cannabidiol in rat isolated small mesenteric artery. British Journal of Pharmacology 139, 1320-1332.
Professor Iain Greenwood (St George's, University of London - Cardiovascular and Cell Sciences Research Institute)
Dr Anthony Albert (St George's, University of London - Cardiovascular and Cell Sciences Research Institute)
Dr Rachel Allen (St George's, University of London - Infection and Immunity Research Institute)
Professor Cecilia Hillard (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Dr David Zhang (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Professor David Baker (Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Stephen Alexander (University of Nottingham)
Professor David Finn (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Dr Ho is a member of the following committees and panels: Senate (elected academic member); Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team (as Deputy Academic Lead); Student Support and Welfare Committee; Virtual Panel for PhD examiner approval; BSc Biomedical Science Course Committee; iBSc Intercalated Biomedical Science Course Committee; MRes Biomedical Science Course Committee; Postgraduate Certificate in Research Skills Course Committee.
Dr Ho is affiliated with the Vascular Biology Research Unit in the Cardiovascular and Cell Sciences Research Institute.
Her research concentrates on the control of vascular tone – how blood vessels contract and relax – which in turn determines tissue blood flow and blood pressure. She is particularly interested in vascular regulation by a group of lipids called endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like chemicals that are produced by the body and increasing evidence suggests that they are important regulators of various body functions in humans and other mammals. For instance, endocannabinoids relax blood vessels (and improve blood flow) via multiple signalling pathways involving the endothelium, vascular smooth muscle and perivascular nerves.
By characterising the cardiovascular responses to endocannabinoids and the underlying cell signalling mechanisms, Dr Ho aims to define the role of endocannabinoids in the circulation under both healthy and diseased conditions and thereby contribute to the development of novel therapeutic targets.
More specifically, recent research projects led by Dr Ho have focused on the following:
- The role of endocannabinoid metabolism in the circulation, including the evaluation of pharmacological inhibitors of endocannabinoid hydrolases (in vitro and in vivo).
- Mechanisms of action of endocannabinoids, including the involvement of orphan G-protein-coupled receptors, K+ channels and Ca2+ channels.
- Changes in the endocannabinoid system with vascular ageing and hypertension.
- Interaction between endocannabinoids and structurally similar lipids that are derived from different fatty acids.
- Detection of endocannabinoids and related lipids in blood vessels and serum by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
- Vascular actions of extracellular calcium-sensing receptors, which have been associated with the release of endocannabinoids from perivascular nerves.
She is supervising a PhD student project funded by the Wellcome Trust and St George’s, University of London, 'The role of orphan G protein-coupled receptors in the vascular actions of cannabinoids and related lipid signalling molecules'.