DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Researchers at the University of North Texas have identified new compounds that may lead to new drugs to treat forms of hereditary cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens the heart and can lead to heart failure. The disease is the leading cause of sudden death in young athletes.
UNT Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science students Alysha Joseph and Diana Wang worked with Biology Associate Professor Douglas Root on the project. Root has been researching cardiomyopathy and muscle contractile proteins, which produce muscle contractions, for some time.
“Our research suggests that regions of proteins of the heart become unstable as a result of mutations, which reduce the efficiency of heart function,” Root said. “So, the idea occurred to us to see what kinds of compounds would bind to the weakened region, stabilize it and counteract the destabilizing effect of the mutations.”
Joseph and Wang looked at a number of different small molecule compounds that could bind to the protein region, and the students found that using small positively charged polyamine compounds did stabilize the weakened region of the heart muscle protein.
Identifying such compounds is the first step toward the development of a new drug, Joseph said.
“Most drugs are small molecule compounds,” Root said. “It’s quite feasible to deliver these compounds and have them go into the cells and potentially bind to the weakened muscle to counteract the effects of cardiomyopathy.”
Root plans to continue researching the stabilizing effect of the compounds.
Joseph, Wang and Root will present their research in Washington, D.C., April 23 and 24 at Posters on the Hill, an annual event hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research. The 2013 event received more than 800 applications from around the U.S. and only 60 projects have been chosen for presentation.
“We’re very excited to represent UNT at Posters on the Hill,” Wang said. “We’ll have a chance to meet members of Congress and interact with students and researchers from around the country.”
About UNT’s Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science
TAMS is a two-year residential program at UNT that allows exceptionally talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while receiving the equivalent of high school diplomas. Students enroll in the academy following their sophomore year of high school, live in a UNT residence hall and attend UNT classes with college students. After two years, they enroll at UNT or another university to finish their bachelor’s degrees.