All photos copyright WG Pyle.

Molecular targets in the failing heart. Heart failure is a worldwide epidemic of increasing prevalence. Our laboratory is investigating the molecular basis of several types of heart fallure including dilated and ischaemic cardiomyopathy. In particular we interested in the role of the protein 'CapZ' in failing hearts. Using samples taken from mouse, dog, pig, and human hearts we have identified changes in CapZ associated with several types of heart failure. In collaboration with Drs. Nir Qvit (Bar-Ilan University), Daria Mochly-Rosen (Stanford University), and Rachela Popovtzer (Bar-Ilan University), we are exploring ways to target CapZ in failing hearts as a form of treatment.

Cardiac Sex Differences. Women and men have dramatically different rates of cardiovascular disease. One reason for these differences is the sex-dependent regulation of the heart by circulating estrogens. Despite widespread recognition of the role of sex hormones in controlling the heart, there is little information about how these factors affect heart function. Furthermore, the impact of menopause and the associated decline in estrogens on the heart is largely unknown. We are investigating the role of the estrogen receptors (alpha, beta, and GPR30/GPER) in controlling the heart; how the decline in estrogens associated with menopause impacts heart function; and how compounds that target estrogen receptors can protect the heart (i.e. hormone replacement therapy). In addition to work done by our group, we have collaborated with Dr. Susan Howlett at Dalhousie University to explore the impact of other hormonal regulators of heart function.

Canine heart failure. Several types of large and giant breed dogs have unusually high rates of familial heart failure. For example, up to half of all Doberman Pinschers will die from a genetic form of heart failure called 'dilated cardiomyopathy' (DCM). Unfortunately the genetic cause of this condition is unknown, which limits the ability to diagnose dogs early and treat them effectively. We have collected samples from dogs that died from DCM and have undertaken investigations to create novel diagnostics, determine its cause, and test novel therapies. Similarities between canine and human DCM mean this work may translate into human patients -- an example of the One Health model of research.