Nav: Home

Virginia Tech team examines molecular-level problems of heart disease

March 07, 2017

Researchers are one step closer to understanding heart disease at a microscopic level, a breakthrough that could influence future treatments for millions of people.

In a recent study, Virginia Tech researchers teamed up with cardiologists and heart therapy scientists from across the U.S. and Europe and found that dysfunction at the molecular level is present in heart failure. Understanding this abnormality could lead to new approaches for treating the No. 1. killer among men and women worldwide.

"There's significant potential to improve the lives of people who are suffering from heart disease," said David A. Brown, associate professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "The hope is we can restore heart cell function and ultimately improve treatments for people with ailing hearts."

Brown was first author of an article published in March 14 print edition of Nature Reviews Cardiology.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among people around the world, and poses a significant economic burden that is projected to double over the next 20 years. Discovering new treatments for a condition with no good alternatives will have significant impact on individuals and the overall economy.

The research delves into energy production at the mitochondrial level. Mitochondria are the powerhouses inside each cell that make energy from food. As the heart is continuously pumping, it is one of the biggest users of energy in the human body. Accordingly, mitochondrial function is essential to support heart pumping 115,000 times per day, 365 days per year.

"Mitochondria generate energy and across many disease states mitochondria become dysfunctional," said Brown, who has been studying the heart for his entire career and is a member of the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery. "Since there are no therapies that directly improve mitochondrial function, we believe restoring cellular energy production can impact disease states."

The research found that in instances of heart disease, mitochondria aren't producing the same levels of energy as those in a healthy heart.

"Although the pathophysiology of heart failure is complex," the article states, "mitochondrial dysfunction seems to be an important target for therapy to improve cardiac function directly."

Brown's team's approach was to understand what causes dysfunction in energy production and expand the understanding of disease progression for medical professionals.

"If we can help the heart make energy better, there's the potential for new treatments," he said.

This type of dysfunction is common in failing human hearts. Brown and Virginia Tech Ph.D. students Justin Perry and Mitchell Allen looked at over 25 years of data and concluded that energy production in failing human heart is impaired across many different sub-types of heart failure.

But what has more interest to the general public is how this research could influence future treatment for heart disease. Understanding energy production at the cellular level can help researchers and industry partners develop new therapies, discover new compounds, and understand what happens when mitochondria become dysfunctional.

And it starts at a level so small, most medical professionals might not even think about it. But a better understanding of the molecular causes of impaired cellular energy production will continue to advance new treatments for heart disease.
-end-


Virginia Tech

Related Heart Disease Articles:

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.
Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.
Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.
Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.
Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Women once considered low risk for heart disease show evidence of previous heart attack scars
Women who complain about chest pain often are reassured by their doctors that there is no reason to worry because their angiograms show that the women don't have blockages in the major heart arteries, a primary cause of heart attacks in men.
Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Older adults with heart disease can become more independent and heart healthy with physical activity
Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
More Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.