A University of Minnesota multidisciplinary research team was awarded $2.6 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate new treatments for heart attacks. The research will focus on myocardial ischemia and reperfusion injury, which account for over 300,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Myocardial ischemia occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is stopped by blocked coronary arteries. The cessation causes the death of heart muscle cells, called necrotic cell death. Instances of a severely blocked coronary artery can result in a heart attack.
The re-opening of the blocked arteries to restore blood flow can cause additional damage to the cardiac muscle, known as reperfusion injury. This reperfusion is even more damaging to the cardiac tissues than the initial myocardial ischemia event.
The research team will focus on developing new strategies to prevent the second wave of heart damage. Investigating the advanced generation of synthetic molecular band-aids, the medical researchers plan to develop treatments to protect the cardiac tissue during the reperfusion process.
Leading experts on the research team specialize in a variety of disciplines including chemical engineering and material sciences, clinical cardiology, and biology and physiology.
Demetris Yannopolous, M.D., a physician in the University of Minnesota Medical School, will assist in leading the team with his expertise in reperfusion injury and cardiac resuscitation.
Additionally, Frank Bates, S.M., Sc.D., professor and past head of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science is a world leader in the development of the synthetic band-aids known as poloxamers.
Principal investigator, Joseph Metzger, Ph.D., is the head of the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology also in the medical school. Metzger’s group previously discovered the application of the synthetic molecular band-aids for inherited heart diseases and plans to extend the base to acquired diseases.
“This grant offers a wonderful example of tapping into the richness of scholarship and expertise at UMN as directed toward a significant biomedical research problem,” said Metzger.
The team plans to understand how synthetic copolymers work in order to protect heart muscle. Through the success of the research, the molecular band-aid treatment could help millions of heart patients across the globe.