Cardiovascular Researchers Receive Grants from Heart and Stroke Foundation

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Two heart disease researchers in the University of Guelph’s Centre for Cardiovascular Investigations (CCVI) will receive grants from the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) of Canada.

Prof. Tami Martino, Biomedical Sciences, is researching how heart disease is affected by day-night rhythms, which might help in treatment. Prof. John Dawson, Molecular and Cellular Biology, will study how to prevent and treat thickening of the heart muscle.

Martino’s lab will receive $283,000 from the HSF for the four-year study.

Dawson was announced Oct. 23 as one of 10 Canadian recipients of a 2015 CP Has Heart Cardiovascular Research award and his lab will receive $233,000. The awards are presented by HSF and Canadian Pacific.

Martino and Dawson belong to CCVI, which aims to encourage collaboration on heart studies between researchers in Guelph’s colleges.

Martino is examining how circadian rhythms affect immune responses after a heart attack.

“The findings will lead to new treatment strategies for heart disease in animals and people,” said Martino.

The circadian clock is a molecular timekeeper in all cells of the body that helps the organs, including the heart, stay co-ordinated and healthy. Heart rate, blood pressure and endocrine hormones all follow daily rhythms.

Disturbing rhythms through shift work or sleep disorders increases your risk of heart disease and worsens outcomes, said Martino.

“The study will examine the direct function of the circadian mechanism on immune responses in heart disease, specifically wound-healing from heart attacks,” she said.

“And there is a new class of drugs that target the circadian mechanism. Basically, we hope to develop this into a treatment that can be given after a heart attack so that patients heal better.”

Dawson was selected from more than 450 entries across Canada for the CP Has Heart Award.

He studies hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), or thickening of the heart muscle. HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death among competitive athletes.

“We are studying the muscle proteins that do the actual contracting in the heart,” said Dawson about the three-year study.

“We think changes in the interactions between the heart muscle protein actin and other heart muscle proteins are causing the problem, so we’ll study this in the lab.”

His lab is one of only two in the world that make human cardiac actin proteins in a test tube.

He will also look at changes in proteins in zebrafish hearts.

“We can search for better treatments that fix the molecular cause of the disease with fewer side effects and develop specific drugs for those who have the changed actin proteins in their hearts,” Dawson said.

“With our results, we can also better advise people who might develop the disease, because we would know which inherited changes lead to developing HCM later on in life.”

David Sculthorpe, CEO of HSF, said CCI’s research can help medical professionals improve treatment options.

“Innovative studies aimed at discovering new approaches for treating heart disease hold great promise in creating more survivors,” he said.

“Thanks to our donors and corporate partners, HSF is pleased to fund these two studies to further research in preventing and treating heart disease. We look forward to the results.”

First up in a new lecture series run by CCVI will be a seminar on personalized medicine for heart therapy by University of Alberta cardiologist and researcher Dr. Gavin Oudit, Oct. 27, 12:30 p.m., in Pathobiology 1810.