BME faculty awarded 3 NIH grants totaling more than $7.4 million

January 15, 2019

The National Institutes of Health has awarded department faculty three grants totaling more than $7.4 million.  Drs. Igor Efimov, Emilia Entcheva, and Matthew Kay are the principal investigators on the three grants.  Each is a four-year grant.

Dr. Efimov’s $2.5 million R01 grant is for the project “High-Definition Conformal Electronics for VT/VF.”  Ventricular fibrillation (rapid and irregular heart beat) is responsible for 300,000 sudden cardiac deaths (SCD) annually in the United States. Current treatment options have limited efficacy and are hampered by serious side effects. Future development of an effective therapy requires detailed knowledge of the disorganized electrical waves in the fibrillating human ventricles. This project will apply novel organ conformal chiplet electronics real-time networks technology to track the development and propagation of these rapid, disorganized electrical waves and terminate them with high precision and minimized side effects, thereby creating a targeted individualized therapy dynamically tailored for each arrhythmia episode for each patient.

Dr. Entcheva and Dr. Kay are the MPIs (Multiple Principal Investigators) on a $2.8 million grant for their project, “Scalable platform for optimizing human cardiac tissue engineering via optical pacing and on-demand oxygenation,” which will develop new high-throughput, all-optical technology for chronic monitoring and control of human stem-cell-derived heart cells.  The team will combine optogenetics, on-demand oxygenation with perfluorocarbon nanocarriers, microfluidics, optical instrumentation and control, as well as transcriptomics analysis, to help improve the maturity of these human heart cells and their use in drug screening applications.  Data analytics on the generated large experimental data sets will be leveraged in constructing computational models for in silico personalized medicine.  Their team includes Dr. Zhenyu Li of the BME department, Dr. Anelia Horvath and Dr. Anastas Popratiloff (School of Medicine and Health Sciences), and Dr. Yordan Kostov (Center of Advanced Sensor Technology, UMBC).  Dr. Entcheva is the contact MPI for the project.

Dr. Kay is the principal investigator of $2.17 million R01 grant for the project “Hypothalamic neuron activation to blunt myocardial remodeling during chronic sleep apnea.”  His co-investigator is Dr. David Mendelowitz (School of Medicine and Health Sciences).  The goal of the project is to identify the specific impact of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) on cardiac health.  Patients suffering from OSA have a three-fold increase in cardiovascular mortality, yet very little is known regarding how OSA directly increases the risk for cardiac disease.  The studies will also test the innovative hypothesis that appropriately timed activation of a small population of hypothalamic paraventricular neurons will slow the development of, or reverse, the deleterious autonomic and neurocardiac alterations that occur during OSA.