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Heart health benefits from insect research

Every year some 935,000 Americans have a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease kills about 600,000 a year, accounting for one in every four deaths in the nation.

It's truly amazing how the study of insect biology can lead to research that may benefit humankind.

Take entomologist Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. Forty years ago, while studying insect development, he discovered a group of anti-inflammatory compounds called sEH (soluble epoxide hydrolases) inhibitors.

In 2005 he began collaborating with cardiologist and cell biologist Nipavan Chiamvimonvat of the School of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Fast forward to today.

An 11-scientist team from the Chiamvimonvat and Hammock labs published groundbreaking research in the Proceedings of National Academic of Sciences that shows a new treatment may help prevent and reduce cardiac fibrosis, a common occurrence in patients after a heart attack.

The research utilized a treatment involving a compound synthesized by Sing Lee and Sung Hee Hwang in the Hammock lab. The scientists determined the molecular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitors in a heart attack.

“Our study (using rodents) provides evidence for a possible new therapeutic strategy to reduce cardiac fibrosis and improve cardiac function after a heart attack,” Chiamvimonvat told us.

"Cardiac fibrosis is a common final pathway for many cardiac diseases and heart failure that has been difficult to treat in the clinic,” said cardiologist and physician scientist Javier E. López, part of the research team. “This study shines some light on to this pathway and offers perhaps a new therapeutic target for therapy that may expand available treatments for these patients in the future."


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Every year some 935,000 U.S. residents have a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease kills about 600,000 a year, accounting for one in every four deaths in the nation.

The research, “New Mechanistic Insights into the Beneficial Effects of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitors in the Prevention of Cardiac Fibrosis,” is “really important in terms of understanding a unique pathway which may be targeted to reduce fibrosis and adverse cardiac remodeling,” Chiamvimonvat said.

The lead authors of the research paper are Padmini Sirish and Ning Li of the Chiamvimonvat lab, and Jun-Yan Liu of the Hammock lab. In addition, other researchers involved in the project are Kin Sing Stephen Lee, and Sung Hee Hwang of the Hammock lab; Hong Qiu, Cuifen Zhao, and Siu Mei Ma of the Chiamvimonvat lab, and López, who developed the methods to quantitate the fibrotic cells using flow cytometry.

Chiamvimonvat and Hammock have filed patents with the University of California for sEH inhibitors and cardiac hypertrophy therapy and organ fibrosis.

A multi-talented scientist and administrator, Hammock holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Research Center, and directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory. He is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of the 2001 UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award and the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching.

Read more about Hammock's research activities on his lab website. More information on the Hammock/Chiamvimonvat research appears on the Department of Entomology's website.

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