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Cardiology Pharmacology Honor

Ph.D. Student's Oral Presentation of Heart Failure Project Wins Graduate Student Category of ASPET Division Special Virtual Session 

October 14 — UH College of Pharmacy Ph.D. student Hanan Qasim recently was honored by a division of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) for the oral presentation of her Blue Ribbon-awarded research project on the overexpression of a protein signaling complex that may provide a drug target for treating heart failure resulting from chronic overstimulation.

Qasim won the Graduate Student category for her presentation from ASPET‘s Division of Cardiovascular Pharmacology Trainee Showcase Oral Presentation Competition Sept. 29.

The team is focusing on the protein called A-kinase anchoring protein (AKAP)-12 grouped in molecular signaling complexes which are involved in the damaging cardiac remodeling process of heart failure. In cardiomyocyte cells, the roles of the AKAP-12 signalosome are still not fully understood and the group aims to unravel the mechanism by which AKAP12 regulates beta-adrenergic receptor (βAR) signaling – which in turn regulates cardiac contractility and heart rate.

In the latest project using the adrenaline-like drug isoprenaline (ISO) to stimulate βAR signaling, the team found that the AKAP-12 Overexpression mouse model had reduced cardiac function – reported as reduced ejection fraction (EF) by 22% and fractional shortening (FS) by14% – compared to the wild-type mouse control groups. The team also transiently overexpressed AKAP12 in human cardiomyocyte cells treated with ISO, which resulted in a 40% reduction in gene expression of the signal-regulating beta-arrestin 1 protein.

Qasim's project coauthors were Iyer Dinakar, Ph.D., UH College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics research assistant professor, and advisor Bradley K. McConnell, Ph.D., FAHA, FCVS, UHCOP professor of pharmacology. Arfaxad Reyes Alcaraz, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in McConnell’s laboratory, assisted Qasim in performing these experiments.

The project abstract, "Cardiac AKAP12 Signalosome Overexpression Exacerbates Isoproterenol Induced Heart Failure," has been published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology (FASEB Journal).

Qasim's oral presentation was originally scheduled to occur during the ASPET 2020 Annual Meeting April 4-7 as part of the Experimental Biology 2020, but the ASPET and other affiliated meetings during EB were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qasim not only earned a travel award to present at the meeting prior to its cancellation, but her project submission also was recognized with a 2020 ASPET Blue Ribbon Award as a top-scoring abstract in the Cardiovascular Pharmacology division.

Fellow UHCOP Ph.D. student Guanyu (Gabriel) Tao also earned a Blue Ribbon Award for his abstract, "Differential Regulation of Hepatic UDP‐glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) 1A1 by Toll‐like Receptors during Irinotecan‐induced Steatosis," which was co-authored by Pavan Kumar Chityala, Ph.D., UHCOP pharmacology/medicinal chemistry alumnus, and advisor Romi Ghose, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry.