Abel Lab Postdoctoral Scholar Helena Kenny awarded 2019 AHA Fellowship

Abel lab Postdoctoral Scholar, Helena Kenny was awarded a 2019 American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship for her project Inducible Deletion of OPA1 Causes Mitochondrial Fragmentation, ER stress and Dysfunction. In support of this project the American Heart Association will provide Kenny with two years of funding, totaling $110,456.

Heart failure is a major public health problem affecting 23 million people worldwide. Mitochondria are subcellular organelles, dysfunction of which, when faced with cellular stress may contribute to the development of heart failure. Inhibition of the mitochondria to perform their role to provide energy for cardiac contraction can lead to cross talk between them and other cell organelles, such as the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which in turn impairs the function of the ER. Little is known about the role of the ER in the development of heart failure.

Firstly, this study will determine if activation of a pathway known as ER stress directly contributes to heart failure when the mitochondria become dysfunctional. Secondly, this study will identify if production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species causes ER stress. The study will also address the question of whether dysfunctional mitochondrial in heart failure directly alters cellular calcium balance, which may impact cardiac contractile function. The project seeks to obtain novel insight into the links between mitochondrial dysfunction and ER stress by identify underlying mechanisms of how they contribute to cardiac dysfunction and premature death. The studies will determine if therapeutically modulating ER stress, might be of value in treating heart failure.

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