News from LSU Health Shreveport

AHA Postdoc Fellows 2019 Group Photo

Three Fellows in the Department of Pathology and the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences at LSU Health Shreveport have been awarded Postdoctoral Fellowships from the American Heart Association (AHA), funding their ongoing research into cardiovascular diseases.

Chowdhury Abdullah, Ph.D., in Dr. Md. Shenuarin Bhuiyan’s laboratory, received an AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship award to fund his project, “Sigma-1 receptor protects diabetic cardiomyopathy by activating adaptive endoplasmic reticulum stress pathway.” Diabetic patients suffer more heart failure-related deaths than patients without diabetes. Diabetes causes a defect in heart muscle structure and function known as ‘Diabetic Cardiomyopathy,’ which is an underlying cause of increased heart failure in diabetic patients. Currently, available therapies do not offer sufficient protection to diabetic patients’ hearts, which is why more research is required to understand the fundamental mechanisms of diabetic cardiomyopathy development to lay the ground for effective drug discovery. In the present grant, Dr. Abdullah aims to discover the novel cardioprotective roles of Sigma-1 receptor (Sigmar1) protein to protect the heart under diabetes to pave future drug development targeting Sigmar1.

Mabruka Alfaidi, Ph.D., in Dr. Wayne Orr’s laboratory, received an AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship award to fund her project, “Nck1 Regulates Atherogenic Endothelial Activation.” Despite our revolution in terms of technology and improvement in day-to-day clinical care, heart disease and heart attacks are the number one killer of people in the United States. Lifestyle modifications and some other secondary prevention prescribed drugs are the only way to intervene, but a curative therapy has not yet been discovered. Dr. Alfaidi’s research is investigating the molecular mechanism of heart attacks, particularly focusing on the endothelium (a single monolayer of cells coating the blood vessels), which is thought to be involved in the healing process of a heart attack. Her research, funded by American Heart Association, is studying a protein named Nck1 that plays a critical role in endothelial cell function. Dr. Alfaidi and others in Dr. Orr’s lab have developed a therapeutic approach to target this protein in cell culture and animal models. By understanding how the Nck1 protein causes build-up and vessel thickening, there is potential for new drug development to target this protein and help prevent heart attacks.

Matthew Scott, Ph.D., also in Dr. A. Wayne Orr’s laboratory, received an AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship to fund his project, “EphA2 signaling mechanisms in smooth muscle performance proliferation and migration in atherosclerosis.” Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the world, with more than 85 million Americans currently affected by this disease. Plaque build-up in blood vessels (atherosclerosis) accounts for 80 percent of all CVD-related deaths, which is why understanding this disease is so important. Dr. Scott’s project proposes a new and exciting idea: that the EphA2 protein plays an important role in atherosclerosis, and may become a potential target for cardiovascular disease medicine in the future. Despite widely available treatments to combat plaque build-up, like statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) and vessel stents, not all individuals respond favorably to these treatments, proving the need for alternatives to be available. By understanding how EphA2 causes plaque build-up and vessel thickening, there is the potential for new drug development to target this protein. This would benefit patients who cannot take statins, and potentially lower risk factors involved with stent placement.

“The American Heart Association is proud to be able to award grants to deserving recipients. More than 80% of the funds raised through our local events are returned back to our community to further research and studies. The research these doctors are performing holds the potential for global impact. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with all those at LSU Health Shreveport who are dedicated to impacting cardiovascular disease,” said Jill Lucero, Regional Director for Northwest Louisiana, American Heart Association.

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