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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 27, 2005

UI Researcher Receives American Heart Association Grant

A University of Iowa researcher studying how oxidative stress in the central nervous system (CNS) contributes to heart failure has received a five-year, $500,000 grant from the American Heart Association (AHA) to fund her research.

Robin Davisson, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and cell biology in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, received the grant, one of only 25 AHA's National Established Investigator awards given by the organization this year, on Jan. 1.

Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the antioxidant molecules that neutralize them tips in favor of the ROS. Davisson and her team will investigate the idea that excessive production of ROS in the central nervous system following a heart attack causes increased signaling between the brain and the cardiovascular system, which ultimately leads to heart failure.

Although the exact mechanism is unclear, scientists do know that the CNS responds to a heart attack with increased electrical and chemical signaling designed to keep the injured heart functioning. However, over time, this adaptive "overdrive" response becomes damaging and heart failure occurs.

Recent studies by Davisson's team show that increasing the level of an antioxidant molecule, which "mops up" excess ROS, in the brains of mice with heart failure, normalized signaling between the CNS and the cardiovascular system.

"Normally, a mouse would be in very serious heart failure within four weeks of a heart attack," Davisson said. "The scavenger antioxidant molecule dramatically slows down the time until heart failure and also improves the cardiac performance in those mice."

Harnessing the power of a number of newly developed molecular tools, in combination with state-of-the-art imaging and cardiovascular analysis in a mouse model of heart attack-induced heart failure, Davisson's team will begin to dissect how ROS in the brain are involved in heart attack-induced heart failure.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, (319) 335-9917

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: A photo of Dr. Davisson is available for downloading at