Four postdocs receive AHA fellowships

Post-doctoral fellows Drs. Rahul Kumar, Ravinder Reddy Gaddam, Helena Kenny, and Jared McLendon each received American Heart Association (AHA) Post-doctoral Fellowship Awards in the past month. According to the AHA, this award provides funding which allows “applicants to develop academic careers in research alongside fulfilling clinical services commitments.” The fellows who apply for this award must have the guidance and mentorship of a research sponsor.

Rahul_1Dr. Kumar plans to investigate the causal role of homocysteine in pre- and post-stroke cognitive impairment and the therapeutic potential of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAr) antagonism.

Dr. Kumar’s primary mentor Dr. Sanjana Dayal, Assistant Professor in Hematology, Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation, assisted in shaping Dr. Kumar’s proposal and will continue to equip him with the skills needed to complete his research.

ravinder_gaddam_web“The laboratory previously discovered that the microbes residing in gut regulate vascular endothelial function through microRNA-204. People with type 2 diabetes develop impairment in the vascular endothelial function,” said Dr. Reddy Gaddam, who seeks to determine whether microbiota contributes to diabetes-associated vascular dysfunction through miR-204.

Dr. Ajit Vikram, Assistant Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine, mentored Dr. Reddy Gaddam by helping him with the hypothesis, evidence, and preparation of his proposal. Dr. Reddy Gaddam also received supervision from Dr. Kaikobad Irani, Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine and Radiation Oncology, who helped edit the research questions.

Kenny-Helena (2) (2)Dr. Kenny will use the funding to evaluate the role of mitochondrial dynamics in the development of heart failure using an inducible cardiac specific OPA1 knockout mouse model. “The mitochondria communicate closely with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) which are involved in calcium regulation and protein folding. It may be that with altered mitochondrial function, the ER become stressed and cause altered calcium homeostasis leading to cardiac contractile dysfunction,” Dr. Kenny said.

Dr. Kenny succeeded in receiving the award with the guidance of her mentor Dr. E. Dale Abel, Chair and DEO of Internal Medicine and Professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism. “Dr. Abel has provided me with the opportunity to work in his lab, and he and other lab members have been extremely supportive in helping me generate sufficient preliminary data for this application,” Dr. Kenny said, “Dr. Abel’s mentorship and guidance throughout the grant writing process has been invaluable, and I have learned a great deal from him.”

McLendon_webWith the funding from the AHA, Dr. McLendon will research the effect the protein TXLNB has on ischemic heart disease.

“We think that because the precise reasons that the heart fails to pump are unknown, doctors must treat with a sledgehammer rather than a scalpel, so to speak,” Dr. McLendon said, “My research has identified a new gene called TXLNB that we think regulates how the heart responds to disease. We will show how it is regulated and how it functions so that new drugs could target TXLNB to improve heart failure outcomes.”

For the past three years, Dr. McLendon has worked with Dr. Ryan Boudreau, Assistant Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine, who helped him develop the accepted proposal for the AHA award. The first step of examining TXLNB branched from an analysis Dr. Boudreau composed about the unknown functions of new genes that could play a role in heart disease. Furthermore, the initial research for his proposal was funded by Dr. Boudreau’s start-up package from the university.

“[Dr. Boudreau] provided significant advice in designing the proposed experiments in this grant and thoroughly edited the proposal to its final status. I am grateful for his support and mentoring in finally getting this project funded,” Dr. McLendon said.

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