Postdoc Avaz Receives $1 million NIH K99/R00 grant

Reza Avazi

ICES Postdoctoral Researcher Reza Avaz received a $1 million National Institutes of Health grant known as the Pathway to Independence Career Development Award, also known as the NIH K99/R00.

The funds will support his continued research to understand, predict, and therapeutically evaluate the effect of systemic hypertension on the likely outcome of myocardial infarction.

"Our long-term objective for this proposal is to improve our understanding on how the heart's left ventricle adapts to myocardial infarction under antecedent systemic hypertension, and to develop an experimentally-validated computational model that can predict this adaptation," said Avaz in his winning proposal.

Thinning of the heart wall and remodeling of the heart left ventricle (LV) are key consequences of myocardial infarction (MI). These consequences can be considerably influenced by pressure overload in the LV as both a risk factor for MI and a cause of pathological myocardial hypertrophy. The effect of antecedent systemic hypertension (ASH) on the LV remodeling due to MI, and more importantly on the success of regenerative medicine therapies following MI remains poorly understood, he said.

Traditional measures such as LV dilation and infarct size used to characterize the LV remodeling provide limited information on cardiac performance.

"New computational tools are needed to reveal detailed description and prognosis of multiscale remodeling of infarcted left ventricle," he said.

Following the hypothesis that the LV wall stress regulates the onset and extent of LV remodeling, Avaz will develop an image-based computational model bridging the gap between local microstructural and mechanical adaptations of LV myocardium and organ-level functional changes. He will then extend this model to simulate and predict possible improvements in the contractility of infarcted myocardium under ASH following stem-cell interventions. This model provides a platform to investigate the role of wall stress restoration in the improvement of myocardial contractility in infarcted hearts with and without ASH.

NIH defines the purpose of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) program as an effort to increase and maintain a strong cohort of new and talented, NIH-supported, independent investigators. "The program is designed to facilitate a timely transition of outstanding postdoctoral researchers with a research and/or clinical doctorate degree from mentored, postdoctoral research positions to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions. The program will provide independent NIH research support during this transition in order to help awardees to launch competitive, independent research careers.”

Avaz works with ICES Professor Michael Sacks in ICES' Willerson Center for Cardiovascular Modeling and Simulation.

Posted: Aug. 23, 2018