The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health recently awarded Craig A. Emter, PhD, a five-year, $1.8 million grant. Emter is an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. The co-investigators are M. Harold Laughlin, PhD, professor and chair of biomedical sciences, and Michael Hill, PhD, professor of medical pharmacology and physiology and associate director at the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center.
The team will research the contributions of smooth muscle cell large conductance Ca2+-activated potassium channels to coronary vascular dysfunction in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). It will examine the effects of exercise training on this process. The long-term objective is to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying coronary vascular dysfunction in HFpEF and to determine the efficacy of exercise as a viable treatment for this disease.
Approximately 50 percent of patients diagnosed with heart failure have HFpEF, Emter said. Conventional heart failure treatments have failed to improve the prognosis of this subgroup of patients over the past three decades, illustrating the need for the development of novel treatment strategies.
“Previous research has shown exercise training is a safe and effective therapeutic modality in the treatment of patients with systolic heart failure,” Emter said. “However, it’s unclear if these benefits extend to HFpEF patients.”
Although the benefits of exercise in heart failure are becoming apparent, the mechanisms underlying these responses are poorly understood. Further, the role of exercise as a viable therapy in the treatment of coronary vascular dysfunction in heart failure has not been addressed, Emter said.
“Although the use of exercise in this context has become largely accepted, virtually all reports regarding its implementation agree a universal prescription for exercise in heart failure does not exist,” he said. “Therefore, we also hope to determine the appropriate intensity, frequency and duration of exercise to optimize health benefits in a clinical setting.”