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Contributed by Nancy Pierce on 01/24/2010
Jean Hardwick (Biology), in collaboration with Marie Southerland (East Tennessee State University) has received a four year grant from the National Institutes of Health Heart, Lung and Blood Institute entitled “Remodeling of the guinea pig intrinsic cardiac plexus with chronic heart disease”. The grant, totaling ~$495,000, will support research on how chronic heart disease alters neuronal control of the heart.
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in this country. Chronic heart disease leads to long term changes in both the cellular structure and function of tissues within the heart. Although some changes are beneficial, many of the changes that occur over time actually lead to progressive cardiac dysfunction. While many studies have focused on the changes within the cardiac muscle as a result of disease, this study will examine the changes in the intrinsic parasympathetic nervous system, located with the wall of the atria, in response to two disease models; chronic myocardial infarction and pressure overload. This study will also examine whether specific therapeutic treatments for chronic heart disease work, in part, through modifications of neuronal function. Finally, we will also look more closely at the changes in neuronal phenotype as a consequence of the disease state. Our hypothesis is that chronic heart disease induces remodeling of the neurons within the intrinsic cardiac plexus, such that the output of the parasympathetic nervous system is enhanced, as a potential compensatory and cardioprotective response.