Naperville resident researching critical component in heart failure
by Lara Krupicka For The Sun November 12, 2012 2:18PM
Naperville resident Sakthivel Sadayappan, who is doing groundbreaking research on a protein that is critical for the normal functioning of the heart, has been named 2012 Junior Scientist of the Year at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. | Submitted
What is it?
Cardiac myosin binding protein-C (cMyBP-C) research explained:
Protein regulating heart muscle contraction
As a biomarker, it can be used in early detection of heart attacks
Gene therapy modification of the protein may help prevent heart failure
Potential treatment to protect this protein would restore heart function in those with heart disease.
Updated: December 15, 2012 6:10AM
One day, if you have a heart attack, doctors might be able to detect it sooner and treat you more quickly. You might receive a drug after that heart attack to protect the muscle in your heart from further damage. Others might undergo gene therapy to prevent them from ever having a heart attack. Developments like these could result from the work of Naperville resident Dr. Sakthivel Sadayappan.
“I’m particularly interesting in curing and preventing heart failure,” he says.
An assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Sadayappan is studying one particular protein connected to heart function: cardiac myosin binding protein-C. This protein helps regulate muscle contraction in the heart.
When a heart attack occurs, damage to the muscle releases enzymes from different proteins into the bloodstream. Doctors already use blood analysis to detect the presence of these biomarkers to determine whether a patient is having a heart attack. However, Sadayappan’s protein appears in the bloodstream earlier than others, within six hours of muscle damage. And it doesn’t remain as long. This has multiple implications for the treatment of heart attacks.
“It will help define the time of release,” Sadayappan says.
This can provide valuable knowledge to doctors at the time of diagnosing a heart attack, when it’s important to act quickly and with confidence.
“People around the country are paying attention to what he’s doing,” says Dr. Pieter de Tombe, director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Loyola and Sadayappan’s mentor.
Sadayappan already has devoted almost 15 years of study to the cardiac myocin binding protein-C, and has received grants from both the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health to fund his research. He also was recently awarded the 2012 Junior Scientist of the Year for Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola.
Unique to Sadayappan’s research is his discovery that more than 60 million people (primarily in Southeast Asia) have a genetic defect related to this protein that puts them at risk for heart disease.
“It is directly associated with the development of cardiomyopathy (a deterioration in muscle function of the heart),” he explains.
As the sole scientist looking into this genetic mutation, he hopes to find a way to repair it. One possibility he’s seeking is a drug to stimulate a modification of the protein to make it normal again and prevent heart failure in people with the genetic defect.
But those without the defect might also benefit from his studies. Sadayappan explains how critical this one protein is to heart function.
“It’s the engine of the heart,” he says. “You have to have these muscle proteins intact.”
But during a heart attack, they’re broken apart and disorganized. The contraction of heart muscles is then compromised at a time when moving blood and removing waste by way of muscle contraction is crucial. Sadayappan hopes to find a way to protect these proteins to preserve heart function. A development in this area would be groundbreaking in the treatment of heart disease.
de Tombe notes Sadayappan’s approach of investigating the protein on multiple angles, looking at it’s role in diagnosis, treatment and prevention, makes him an exceptional scientist.
“It’s remarkable what he’s accomplished,” de Tombe says.
While most of Sadayappan’s work will take at least 10 years before being used in treatment of humans, he points out that gene therapy is already in clinical trials. And the use of the protein as a diagnostic tool has moved on to testing in pigs. Its success there could move it rapidly into further trials and then mainstream use.
“I’m very excited about what I’m doing,” he says.
And that excitement will do a lot of hearts a lot of good.