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Jun 14 2011

NYCOM Chair Wins $1.8 Million NIH grant to Study Heart Failure and Thyroid Disease

Old Westbury, N.Y. (June 14, 2011) – The federal government has awarded a $1.8 million grant to investigate a link between heart failure and an underlying hormone imbalance -- building on the work of a professor at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM) of New York Institute of Technology.

A. Martin Gerdes, Ph.D., NYCOM’s Chair of Biomedical Sciences, will conduct the five-year, preclinical study on the benefits of treating a rat model of heart attack with thyroid hormones. The grant comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“A major goal if this study is to identify potential benefits of thyroid treatment on heart function and structure, and to determine if the subjects live longer, healthier lives,” Gerdes said.

Growing evidence in human and animal studies suggests a link between the progression of heart disease and chronically low levels of thyroid hormones, which can be treated for pennies a day.

While doctors traditionally monitor thyroid hormones through routine blood tests, animal studies have indicated that these thyroid imbalances can occur within heart tissue itself. This finding suggests that even individuals with normal levels of thyroid activity in their blood can be at risk for heart failure.

Unfortunately, these cases go undetected and untreated, since a non-invasive method for measuring thyroid levels in a patient’s heart tissue does not yet exist. Gerdes hopes his study will “set the stage” for clinical trials to change that.

“Hopefully, this will be the beginning of great things to come from NYCOM in the field of heart failure research,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes achieved a score in the top 1% of all grants submitted to the NIH’s last application cycle. Earlier this year, Gerdes attracted nationwide attention with a study published in the well-respected journal Circulation that showed that fish oil prevents pressure-related damage to the heart. 

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