Cardiovascular research is going strong at Masonic Medical Research Institute (MMRI), where four scientists currently have projects funded by the American Heart Association for a total amount of $499,000.
Today, November 28, 2023, the researchers presented brief overviews of their projects to gathered board members from both institutions and the public.
“Since 1949, the American Heart Association has invested more than $5.7 billion in research,” said Amy DeMetri, executive vice president of First Source Federal Credit Union and member of the board of directors of the American Heart Association in the Mohawk Valley. “We are currently funding 1,700 projects for a total of $479 million worldwide. We are very proud to be funding $499,000 right here at MMRI. It’s exciting that so much of the money we raise remains right here in the Mohawk Valley, stays in the Mohawk Valley. I know the work done here will have a positive impact on many lives in many places – starting right here.”
Longtime American Heart Association grant recipient and executive director of MMRI, Maria Kontaridis, Ph.D., is researching whether there is a connection between congenital heart defects and autism. Kontaridis is also the vice chair of the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Council Leadership Committee.
“The funding provided by the America Heart Association allows MMRI to make significant strides towards finding ways to not only prevent, but to treat heart disease,” said Maria Kontaridis, Ph.D., executive director, Gordon K. Moe professor and chair of biomedical research and translational medicine at MMRI. “All of us at MMRI are extremely grateful for the American Heart Association’s generous support.”
Dr. Kontaridis received the Transformational Project Award for $73,432 for her collaborative research project titled, Atrial Remodeling Precedes Ventricular Dysfunction in Proteoxic Cardiac Disease. She and her team will research the impact of damaged proteins on the structure and electrical signaling of the heart.
Luana Nunes Santos, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Kontaridis Laboratory, received a diversity supplement award of $133, 480 for two years from the American Heart Association to work with Dr. Kontaridis on the autism and congenital heart defects project. That grant promotes diversity and inclusion in the sciences and has concluded.
Postdoctoral fellow, Khanh Ha, Ph.D., of MMRI and associate professor of chemistry at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, Max Majireck, Ph.D., have a grant for a project that aims to identify a new type of drug delivery system that targets the plaques found in atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death in adults worldwide.
Nathan Tucker, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical research and translational medicine at MMRI, was awarded the Innovative Project Award (IPA) for $200,000. The two-year award will allow Dr. Tucker and his research team to focus on the strong impact that genetics have on the risk of severe cardiovascular disease.
Survivor Ryan Leogrande, who served as a Red Cap Ambassador to America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk in 2022, talked about research and what it means to people living with heart disease.
“After watching myself flatline, I made a number of life changes, including better diet and more exercise,” said Ryan Leogrande, economic development specialist for Empire State Development, who was a Red Cap Ambassador to America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk in 2022. “Like the great projects the American Heart Association is funding at Masonic Medical Research Institute, those changes are part of the research of the American Heart Association. My three sons, my wife and I support the American Heart Association so that other dads can be around to watch their children grow up.”
Photo included (left to right): Amy Demetri, board member of American Heart Association; Khanh Ha, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at MMRI; Kelly Leogrande, wife of red cap ambassador; Ryan Leogrande, survivor and red cap ambassador; Luana Nunes Santos, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at MMRI; Maria Kontaridis, Ph.D., executive director, Gordon K. Moe professor and chair of biomedical research and translational medicine at MMRI; Nathan Tucker, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical research and translational medicine at MMRI; Max Majireck, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at Hamilton College; Ryan Rahman, student at Hamilton College; Frank Williams, board member at MMRI.