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Posted: November 12, 2012

New research aims to reverse the damage caused by cardiac hypertrophy

People who have stress, high blood pressure or aortic stenosis, in which the aortic valve cannot open fully, are more prone to hypertrophy, which is an abnormal thickening and enlargement of the heart muscle. This can eventually result in congestive heart failure and death.

Joseph Yuan, PhD, assistant professor of Integrative Physiology, is working to determine which genes cause cardiac hypertrophy.

"An increase in calcium signaling due to these risk factors also increases expression of prohypertrophic genes," Yuan explained. "These are normally inactive genes in healthy individuals that get turned on, contributing to the enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart.

This area of the heart thickens in an effort to increase blood circulation due to the extra work of pumping blood, but ironically, the heart becomes less efficient as a pump."

Yuan's research seeks to reverse this heart hypertrophy.

"Some people appear to have a predisposition for this hypertrophy as they develop a sedentary lifestyle," Yuan said. "I hope my research can discover how to control hypertrophy through gene therapy. We are researching ways to reverse the hypertrophic damage by regulating the expression levels of prohypertrophic genes."

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