Tag Archives: Carol C. Gregorio

Heart Health, WEB

UA Sarver Heart Center scientists earn NIH grant

image003The Gregorio Lab in the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center’s Molecular and Cardiovascular Research Program (MCRP) was awarded $1.77 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a study called “Deciphering the Role of Lmod2 in Thin Filament Length Regulation and Dilated Cardiomyopathy” (NIH Grant 1R01HL123078).

“This award demonstrates the value of Sarver Heart Center’s Investigator Awards Program, which provides seed funding for promising research ideas,” said Carol C. Gregorio, PhD, head of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, director of the MCRP and co-director of the UA Sarver Heart Center. She is the principal investigator on the NIH grant.

Under Gregorio’s mentorship, Christopher Pappas, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate, obtained a Sarver Heart Center Investigator Award funded by the Steven M. Gootter Foundation. With the funding, Pappas studied the role of the protein Lmod2 in cardiac development and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The Investigator Award enabled Pappas to jump-start his path to career independence by obtaining the data necessary to compete successfully for the NIH grant as a co-investigator, said Gregorio.

Dilated cardiomyopathy causes the heart to become weakened and enlarged, frequently leading to heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest. It affects about 1 million people, making it the second most common cause of heart failure, behind heart failure due to heart attacks.  More than 6 million people in the United States have heart failure.

“Cardiac muscle is composed of thick and thin protein filaments. In studying the heart’s mechanism of contraction, we found that the filaments have to be precisely organized for efficient beating. Proper contraction requires filaments of the proper length. We found that Lmod2 is an actin filament elongation protein that regulates the lengths of thin filaments in heart muscle,” said Pappas.

UA researchers have identified the connection between thin-filament length and cardiac function, as well as the role thin-filament length dysregulation plays in cardiomyopathies. Their goal is to uncover insights into novel therapeutic targets for dilated cardiomyopathy.

“We know that without Lmod2, hearts become enlarged and do not pump well. We can observe at very high magnification that heart muscle lacking Lmod2 is extremely disrupted. These data indicate that the absence of Lmod2 leads to dilated cardiomyopathy in animal models,” said Pappas.

Future directions for the research team include determining how short thin-filament lengths lead to dilated cardiomyopathy and if Lmod2 mutations are present in human patients with dilated cardiomyopathy.

The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center Investigator Award Review Committee is meeting this week to select the next round of research award recipients. The Center’s 135 members, including faculty from cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric cardiology, neurology, vascular surgery, radiology, endocrinology, emergency medicine, nursing, pharmacy and basic sciences, are eligible to apply for investigator awards each year. The UA Sarver Heart Center emphasizes a highly collaborative research environment, fostering innovative translational or “bench-to-bedside” research and working toward a future free of heart disease and stroke.

heart

Sweitzer Named Head of UA Sarver Heart Center

Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, a board-certified advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist and physiologist, will become director of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center and chief of the Division of Cardiology in the UA College of Medicine, Department of Medicine, effective March 1, 2014, announced Steve Goldschmid, MD, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

“It is very clear that Dr. Sweitzer has a passion for professional excellence and delivery of high-quality cardiovascular care, combined with a curiosity that drives collaborative scientific discovery,” Dr. Goldschmid said.  “She also displays a deep commitment to seeking ways to improve. She personifies the UA’s ‘Never Settle’ vision – a vision that guides our strategic planning at the College of Medicine.”

Currently, Dr. Sweitzer is an associate professor of medicine and director of numerous programs, including clinical research, quality, and the heart failure and cardiac transplant programs (interim director) at the University of Wisconsin Cardiovascular Medicine Division in Madison. She also directs the cardiovascular medicine and heart failure and cardiac transplant fellowship programs there.

“Dr. Sweitzer is nationally recognized for her strong leadership and experience in clinical research. These unique talents will help her build impactful bridges between the clinical and basic science enterprises, and increase discovery in the areas of translational and personalized cardiovascular medicine,” said Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, MD, senior vice president for health sciences and professor of medicine at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Sweitzer has a clinical research program focused on the interaction of the dysfunctional heart muscle in heart failure with the vasculature and kidneys to better understand how to improve symptoms and organ function in heart failure patients.  She has done extensive work on the physiology of heart failure with preserved systolic function, a disease that disproportionately affects elderly women. She has led and collaborated on numerous studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health as well as studies supported by industry and academic sponsors. She also has served on numerous NIH committees and currently serves as a member of its Clinical and Integrative Cardiovascular Science Study Section and the American Heart Association’s Cardiac Biology and Regulation Committee.

“I believe in the mission of the current leadership of the University of Arizona, the College of Medicine, and The University of Arizona Health Network. Together, we are able to provide the highest level of unique advanced and specialized service to patients with heart disease in Tucson and the Southwest  and to support other cardiovascular and primary care providers in the region. The leadership at UA, combined with the strong faculty already in place, offer tremendous opportunity to grow the division’s regional and national presence and increase its prestige and recognition. I plan to build the cardiovascular division so that we will provide consistently excellent and comprehensive advanced and specialized cardiovascular disease services. As an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist, my focus has always been on providing the best care to the sickest patients with heart disease,” said Dr. Sweitzer.

“Dr. Sweitzer’s expertise will have a huge impact on the future advances that come from the Sarver Heart Center. Her experience as a translational researcher will be extremely valuable in terms of boosting collaboration between Sarver Heart Center members who have a strong basic science focus on cardiovascular diseases and those who understand the clinical advances that are within our grasp. We are grateful for the support we received from both the College of Medicine and The University of Arizona Health Network for making this recruitment possible,” said Carol C. Gregorio, PhD, director of the Molecular Cardiovascular Research Program and head of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the UA College of Medicine, who has served as interim director of the Sarver Heart Center since July 2013, following the retirement of Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, who served as director since 1991. Dr. Gregorio also chaired the director search committee.

“I am looking forward to the unique opportunity to lead both cardiology and cardiovascular research efforts, coupled with a successful center of excellence in the UA Sarver Heart Center. The potential to make a significant impact is far greater than most cardiology opportunities. This is largely due to the tremendous legacy of Dr. Gordon Ewy. His amazing work in both research and public outreach, saving lives and increasing understanding and awareness of cardiovascular disease is an awe-inspiring and motivating legacy. The Sarver Heart Center and the talented and dedicated staff are poised to be a real force in the Tucson community as well as the regional Southwest for improvement of care disparities and cardiovascular disease awareness, and large-scale preventive heart disease efforts,” said Dr. Sweitzer.