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Postdoc Reza Avaz Receives American Heart Association Career Award

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Reza Avaz, an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Research Fellow in the Willerson Center for Cardiovascular Modeling and Simulation (WCCMS), has received a $230,000 2018 Career Development from the American Heart Association.

The award supports healthcare and academic professionals to assure their future success as research scientists in the in the field of cardiovascular and stroke research, and the funding will support Avaz's research project titled “The effect of systemic hypertension on prognosis of myocardial infarction: Understanding, prediction and therapy evaluation.” 

"Our long-term objective for this proposal is to improve our understanding on how the heart's left ventricle adapts to myocardial infarction under antecedent systemic hypertension, and to develop an experimentally-validated computational model that can predict this adaptation," said Avaz in his winning proposal.

Thinning of the heart wall and remodeling of the heart left ventricle (LV) are key consequences of myocardial infarction (MI). These consequences can be considerably influenced by pressure overload in the LV as both a risk factor for MI and a cause of pathological myocardial hypertrophy. The effect of antecedent systemic hypertension (ASH) on the LV remodeling due to MI, and more importantly on the success of regenerative medicine therapies following MI remains poorly understood, he said.

Traditional measures such as LV dilation and infarct size used to characterize the LV remodeling provide limited information on cardiac performance.

"New computational tools are needed to reveal detailed description and prognosis of multiscale remodeling of infarcted left ventricle," he said.

Following the hypothesis that the LV wall stress regulates the onset and extent of LV remodeling, Avaz will develop an image-based computational model bridging the gap between local microstructural and mechanical adaptations of LV myocardium and organ-level functional changes. He will then extend this model to simulate and predict possible improvements in the contractility of infarcted myocardium under ASH following stem-cell interventions. This model provides a platform to investigate the role of wall stress restoration in the improvement of myocardial contractility in infarcted hearts with and without ASH.

Avaz works with Professor Michael Sacks, who directs the WCCMS.