News Release

September 23, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Researcher Identifies Function of Complex Protein Linked to Enlargement of the Heart

UConn Health Center Study published in Current Issue of “Nature”

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center have identified the function of a complex set of proteins linked to cardiac hypertrophy or enlargement of the heart. The study is published in the current issue of the journal Nature.

With cardiac hypertrophy, the muscle fibers of the chambers of the heart thicken and are less able to relax in between heart beats. It means the heart works harder yet accomplishes less pumping. Cardiac hypertrophy is an early sign of heart failure and an important risk factor for sudden cardiac death.

“In order to prevent the enlargement of the heart, a potentially fatal condition, we need to better understand what causes it,” said Kimberly Dodge-Kafka, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center and lead author of the study.

“If you understand how a healthy heart functions, it can provide vital information into what goes wrong in a diseased heart,” explained John Scott, Ph.D., co-investigator at the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. “Now, we’re one step closer to that fundamental information.”

The researchers knew there was a large protein, called a scaffolding or anchoring protein, that played a role in linking other active proteins or enzymes together. But in addition to these anchoring proteins, the scientists discovered a complex set of new proteins responsible for cardiac hypertrophy. Further research in the laboratory found if those proteins were inhibited or blocked through pharmacological methods, the enlargement of the heart cells in culture would also be inhibited.

“It’s a new way of considering how the components of the heart are put together,” said Scott, “this is a unique finding that has considerable clinical relevance in the long-term.”

“It is the first time we’ve seen how a very specific complex of proteins can regulate cardiac hypertrophy. Even though this research is in the preliminary stages, we hope our findings may eventually lead us to a novel way of treating hypertrophy,” added Dodge-Kafka.

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