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University of Iowa News Release


July 8, 2008

Leducq Foundation international grant aids UI heart research

A major international grant will help University of Iowa researchers collaborate with investigators worldwide to see if a relatively unexplored chemical pathway can be used to create improved treatments for heart failure and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), which are leading causes of death in Americans and Europeans.

The Leducq Foundation, based in Paris, France, has awarded the UI-led consortium a five-year, $6 million Transatlantic Networks in Heart Disease grant, with $1.5 million going directly to the UI. The principal investigator is Mark Anderson, M.D., Ph.D. (photo, left), professor of internal medicine and molecular physiology and biophysics at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. The grant will be effective Oct. 1.

"We and other labs have been studying a heart enzyme called CaM kinase II and believe it is an interesting and possibly viable target for heart disease treatments," said Anderson, who also holds the Potter-Lambert Chair in Cardiology. "We appreciate that the Leducq grant will allow us to focus on investigating this enzyme with an international network of experts. The grant recognizes the UI's expertise to lead the 12 different labs worldwide."

The consortium's central theory is that diverse signals activate CaM kinase II, and it in turn causes heart failure and arrhythmias by activating specific downstream target molecules. "The goal and scope of our lab network is unique, since CaM kinase II, compared to other pathways, has only recently been recognized as a central mechanism for heart failure and arrhythmias," Anderson said.

Anderson will serve as the American coordinator on the grant, while Sylvia Priori, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular cardiology at the University of Pavia in Italy, will be the European coordinator and will provide expertise in the genetic basis of arrhythmias. The UI's Peter Mohler, Ph.D. (photo, right), associate professor of internal medicine, will help scientists on the grant set up experiments to witness important cardiac contractions and electrical changes.

"Studying the relationship between the mechanical function and electrical functions of cardiac cells is key to understanding heart failure and arrhythmias," Anderson said. "Peter Mohler is an expert at taking difficult-to-work with cells, like heart muscle cells, and using disabled viruses to manipulate them directly, which allows us to track the consequences to mechanical and electrical behavior of adding or subtracting certain molecules."

The team also receives assistance from Lori Bassler, administrator at the UI Cardiovascular Research Center, and will make use of the UI's Gene Targeting Core Facility and the Gene Transfer Vector Core. "The cooperative science that happens at Iowa is very important for moving health care forward," Anderson said.

He also noted that the project is the kind of translational scientific effort that could eventually lead to the creation of new drugs to test through the new UI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science.

In addition to the UI and University of Pavia, institutions involved in the Leducq grant include the University of California at Davis, Mayo Clinic, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, Washington University in St. Louis, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Baylor College of Medicine, Georg-August University in Germany and the IRCCS Foundation Salvatore Maugeri in Pavia, Italy.

The Leducq Foundation is named after Jean Leducq, a French businessman who was told in the 1970s that he had inoperable coronary artery disease. He then visited Mayo Clinic, where he received a heart bypass and lived for nearly 25 years. The life-extending experience inspired him and his spouse, Sylviane, to establish the foundation in their family name to support research efforts between European and North American scientists. Learn more at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660