As reported by the New Britain Herald, November 9, 2007.

Researchers Report Heart Disease Breakthrough

By Scott Whipple

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center say they have identified a gene they believe plays a significant role in the development of heart disease.

Lead investigator Lixia Yue, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology, says the TRPM7 gene provides a conduit that enables calcium to get into fibroblasts, a type of heart cell. Abnormal calcium levels in fibroblasts can lead to cardiac fibrosis.

"Fibrosis often leads to a variety of cardiac diseases, including irregular heartbeat, enlarged heart, heart failure and sudden cardiac death," Yue said. "If you can control the calcium level, you can stop the fibrosis. Our focus is on the TRPM7 channel protein; the question now is, how do we moderate this channel to prevent fibrosis?"

Yue, a researcher in the Health Center's Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, presented her findings Tuesday at an American Heart Association conference in Orlando, Fla. The study will be published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

"This work has yielded novel information that gives us a better understanding of how certain cardiac diseases can originate," said Bruce T. Liang, MD, director of the Calhoun Cardiology Center Director.

Jianyang Du, Ph.D., Heun Soh, Ph.D., and David Silverman, MD, collaborated with Yue and Liang on the research.