Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have been awarded more than $12 million by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to investigate both the acquired and familial causes of heart failure -- with the aim of identifying markers for diagnosis and targets for cures.
The five years of new funding supports an ongoing program-project grant led by R. John Solaro, distinguished university professor and head of physiology and biophysics at UIC, that looks at one of the leading causes of death, disability and hospitalization in the western world. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump effectively and is unable to meet the body's need for blood and oxygen. More than 5.5 million Americans suffer from heart failure, and 670,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the American Heart Association.
"We're looking at the overarching problem of the maladaptive changes the heart undergoes that lead into a vicious cycle of failure," says Solaro.
His program, like other program-project grants, links the unique expertise of each investigator to those of the others. "The sum is greater than the individual parts," he said.
His collaborators are Brenda Russell, professor in physiology and biophysics; E. Douglas Lewandowski, professor in physiology and biophysics; and Pieter de Tombe, chair of physiology at Loyola University, Chicago. The projects expand the program that Solaro has led for 10 years.
Those 10 years have been "extraordinarily productive," resulting in dozens of papers in top-tier journals, said Russell, who is executive associate vice chancellor for research at UIC. A decisive factor for the NIH to extend a project grant is the productivity of the program, she said.
Projects led by Solaro and de Tombe investigate energy consumption by the molecular motors of the cardiac muscle, called sarcomeres, which generate the pressure to pump blood through the arteries. Pilot studies have identified possible therapies for common familial cardiac disorders for which there is presently no cure.
The project headed by Russell addresses the mechanisms for growth of the heart-muscle cells and the assembly of the sarcomeres during growth.
Lewandowski focuses on the metabolic pathways that supply energy to the molecular motors and on the coordination of energy supply and demand, which he says brings "a slightly new perspective" to the program. Cellular metabolism is a topic of intense interest now, he said, because scientists think "the interplay between protein function and expression in the heart, and metabolic processes in the cell, can either make or break the contractile function of the heart."
|Contact: Jeanne Galatzer-Levy|
University of Illinois at Chicago