Heart failure research receives focus from two Greater Milwaukee Foundation funds
March 11, 2013 College News - College Two funds at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation are supporting three distinct cardiovascular research projects at the Medical College of Wisconsin with grants totaling $75,000.
“Cardiovascular disease accounts for at least one third of all deaths in the United States. Heart failure alone affects more than 5 million Americans and contributes to 300,000 deaths each year,” said Medical College President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD. “By conducting research in this specific area with the support of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Medical College can help deliver a blow to the leading cause of death for men and women.”
Scott Levick, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, earned funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Raymond and Bernice Eschenburg Fund for his heart research. He is studying how inflammation contributes to heart failure in patients with high blood pressure.
In heart failure, the heart can no longer pump enough blood through the body to sustain life. A large number of heart failure patients have hypertension, or unusually high blood pressure. During hypertension, inflammatory cells invade the heart, contributing to a build-up of collagen proteins. This makes the heart stiffer, which interferes with its ability to relax and contract, ultimately resulting in heart failure.
With the grant, Dr. Levick will conduct research in rats to gain a better understanding of the genetic and molecular factors involved in inflammation’s role in heart failure.
Two cardiovascular projects received support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Elsa Schoeneich Medical Research Fund.
In nearly half of patients with heart failure, their heart still pumps normally. The walls of their hearts, however, are thickened, so the heart has a problem filling with blood. These patients experience shortness of breath and fatigue, symptoms not immediately associated with heart failure, so there is a need for better diagnosis.
Jennifer Strande, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiology), is investigating biomarkers, or proteins in the blood, that could help diagnose or predict heart failure in patients with normal pumping function, also called “preserved ejection fraction.” The grant from the Schoeneich Fund is supporting the discovery stage of Dr. Strande’s research, which includes the initial identification of thousands of potential biomarkers, which will eventually be qualified and validated for further examination.
A study led by Paul H. Goldspink, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology, also involves the use of a protein to improve a failing heart. Dr. Goldspink’s research team seeks to improve the ability of the heart muscles to contract during disease and failure as well as enhance cardiac repair and regeneration using the body’s own mechanisms.
His lab has developed a small protein to mimic the actions of a naturally occurring substance called “mechano growth factor” and has shown that this protein can help recover function in the failing hearts of mice and sheep, following a heart attack. The Schoeneich Fund grant will support further research in mice that could provide the data necessary to apply for National Institutes of Health funding.
“One of every three deaths in Wisconsin is from cardiovascular disease,” said Janel Hines, Director of Grant Programs at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “Our Foundation has a strong relationship with the Medical College of Wisconsin, coupled with an ongoing commitment to improving the health of our community. We are pleased to be able to provide this support to help advance this important research.”
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is a family of more than 1,100 individual charitable funds, each created by donors to serve the local charitable causes of their choice. Started in 1915, the Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the U.S.
The Raymond and Bernice Eschenburg Fund was created through the estate of Bernice Eschenburg to support medical research. Raymond and Bernice were Milwaukee natives. Raymond was the retired owner of Eschenburg Heating and Sheet Metal, a company he operated with his brother. Bernice worked at Wisconsin Electric. The Elsa Schoeneich Medical Research Fund was established with a bequest from the late Elsa Schoeneich and her two sisters, Margaret and Laura, to support medical research, particularly in the areas of cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease. Elsa Schoeneich was a mathematics teacher at Custer High School in Milwaukee for 38 years.