"I always tell people that pigs don't fly, but ours do run on a treadmill," he says. "Just as physicians perform treadmill stress tests in patients suspected of having coronary disease, we use treadmill exercise to physiologically increase the workload of the heart in real time."
Dr. Tune and his colleagues also examine isolated blood vessels and smooth muscle cells in their pig model. These examinations have turned up a number of findings, including that obesity significantly decreases the function of specific potassium channels that are critical for the regulation of blood flow to the heart. Without enough of these channels, the heart may not receive enough blood and oxygen over time, which could lead to long-term damage.
Additional studies in Dr. Tune's laboratory are focused on the potential role of factors released from fat cells, including fat cells that normally surround the major coronary arteries. His recent work has shown that one of these factors, a chemical called leptin, can impair the function of cells that line blood vessels, potentially contributing to the development of coronary artery disease.
From Pigs to People:
Though much of his research takes place in pigs, his ultimate goal is to find pharmaceutical targets for treating heart disease in people. "By understanding how obesity and diabetes leads to the development of cardiovascular disease we hope to discover new targets to delay the initiation and progression of this deleterious disease,"
|Contact: Donna Krupa|
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology