News | November 05, 2010

UIC Awarded $12 Million to Study Root Causes of Heart Failure

November 5, 2010 – The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has awarded the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) more than $12 million to investigate the acquired and familial causes of heart failure. The goal is to identify markers for diagnosis and targets for cures.

The funding will support an ongoing program-project grant led by R. John Solaro, head of physiology and biophysics at UIC. Solaro’s program links the expertise of several UIC researchers together. Over the program’s 10-year life, dozens of papers have been published in top journals.

"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 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.

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.

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. Cellular metabolism is important, 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."

For more information: www.uic.edu

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