Many American families are unfortunately all too familiar with the devastating effects of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. By the age of 40 the lifetime risk of developing of heart failure in both men and women is 1 in 5. Despite important advances in medicine, current treatments do not prevent or reverse the progression of the disease.
Eugene Konorev, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Microbiology of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) has been awarded a grant totaling over 460-thousand dollars from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how to stimulate new myocardial blood vessel growth that will alleviate the progression of heart disease.
“I believe it is important to note that most studies have put emphasis on cardiomyocytes as major cause of cardiac disease progression, and a target for developing new therapies to treat these diseases,” said Dr. Konorev. “Although this approach is clearly important, we proposed to focus on endothelial defects that accompany cardiac diseases.”
Dr. Konorev will involve KCU medical students to complete research on the toxic effects of a common chemotherapeutic drug, doxorubicin, which is known to damage the heart. Not only will the NIH funding support research designed to lessen the toxic side effects of the drug, the study will have important implications for understanding the causes of heart failure from a variety of factors.
Dr. Konorev’s study will examine the SMAD3 gene that is critical to regulating the cardiovascular system and define the distinct cellular responses associated with the progressive nature of heart disease. Understanding the function of this gene will help identify targets for drugs that may actually stimulate new vascular growth in failing hearts.
“This award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is vital for advancing Dr. Konorev’s impactful research and the training of our medical students in research,” Jeffrey N. Joyce, Ph.D., Vice President for Research at KCU.
Stimulation of new vessel growth in affected tissue appears to be a promising strategy to halt the progression of heart disease. This three year study offers exciting opportunities for providing hope to those who suffer from heart disease and are waiting for a cure.
Pictured: Dr. Konorev with research associate Melissa Cobb in his lab.