Vishwa Rajagopalan, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical and anatomical Sciences at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (NYITCOM-Arkansas), has secured a two-year grant from the American Heart Association (AHA) to study cardiovascular dysfunction.
The funding, which totals $154,000, was awarded through the AHA’s Institutional Research Enhancement Award initiative, the association’s equivalent of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) R15 award.
“We are incredibly proud of Dr. Rajagopalan for receiving this well-deserved award,” says Shane Speights, D.O., dean of NYITCOM-Arkansas. “Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in all Americans, but it is particularly prevalent in Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta region, which makes Dr. Rajagopalan’s work all the more important to the people who live in this part of the country.”
Rajagopalan’s research will focus on the role of noncoding ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule present in most living organisms and viruses, in cardiac dysfunction. He will study a specific gene to see if and how noncoding RNA may impact heart health.
“RNA-based treatment is becoming increasingly popular,” says Rajagopalan, who is also a fellow of the Cardiovascular Section of the American Physiology Society. “This study will investigate the importance of a key long noncoding RNA in mediating heart attacks associated with thyroid dysfunction. We hope to use this knowledge to improve heart function and, in turn, decrease cardiovascular-related death. The study will use a modified form of CRISPR and other exciting technologies to answer these questions.”
Rajagopalan conducts his research at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute on the Arkansas State University (A-State) campus. Medical students from NYITCOM and biological sciences students at A-State will work with him on this project, gaining hands-on research experience. Junming Yue, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, will serve as a consultant.
Rajagopalan joined NYITCOM on the Long Island campus in 2012 and moved to Jonesboro in 2016 upon the opening of the school’s Arkansas location. He began his career at the Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in India—where the country’s heart transplant program pioneered. There, he obtained comprehensive general and cardiothoracic clinical training and later earned a Bachelor of Science from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Rajasthan, India.
Following his tenure as a healthcare professional, Rajagopalan moved to the United States for advanced training in cardiovascular sciences. After completing his doctoral studies in molecular and translational aspects of physiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, he began postdoctoral work at the Stanford University Medical Center, which is known for groundbreaking contributions to human heart transplantation.
Throughout his time at NYITCOM, Rajagopalan has conducted extensive research on the impact of thyroid hormone on heart function and associated disorders.
“The work that Dr. Rajagopalan is doing is incredibly important, and we’re thrilled to see the AHA validate that through their support,” says Dosha Cummins, Pharm.D., chair of the Department of Biomedical and Anatomical Sciences at NYITCOM-Arkansas. “He is an invaluable member of our faculty, and we’re very proud to join him in celebrating this award.”
This grant was supported by AHA Award Number 24AIREA1201233/Viswanathan Rajagopalan/2023. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the AHA.
By Casey Pearce