Investigator Awards


Donations large and small from generous donors have enabled the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center to provide critical funding to investigators for years. “The Investigator Awards program is a unique and special feature of membership in the Sarver Heart Center, and is one of a number of factors that enables us to recruit and retain the most talented cardiovascular scientists to the University of Arizona. These funds allow our scientists to collect critical pilot data to support larger grant applications, can support high risk, innovative projects unlikely to be funded through more traditional sources, and can bridge an investigator who is between funding sources in these difficult times with declining scientific support at the national level. This year, we are pleased to announce that we will fund four Investigator Awards during the 2016-2017 academic year,” said Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, director of the UA Sarver Heart Center

Ankit Desai, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, successfully submitted a proposal titled “Sudden death in sickle cell Jil C. Tardiff, MD, PhD, and Ankit Desai, MDdisease - A novel role for Gadd45a signaling.” Cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac arrest are the top causes of premature death in individuals with sickle cell disease. This research, supported by Phil and Bobbie Hanft and J. G Murray, will further understanding of a previously unrecognized human sickle cardiomyopathy, a condition that disproportionately affects African Americans. Dr. Desai’s mentor is Jil C. Tardiff, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and the Steven M. Gootter Endowed Chair for the Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death.

Brett Colson, PhDBrett Colson, PhD, assistant professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, received an award supported by Dr. Alex Frazer and Frank H. Frazer, Jack and Mildred Michelson, Mark and Emma Schiffman, and Anthony and Mary Zoia. His project, “Identifying Novel Heart Muscle Therapeutics to Target Sudden Cardiac Arrest,” addresses the critical need for identifying and understanding novel drug interventions and personalized therapies for calcium-triggered arrhythmias in inherited diseases such as hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies. His Sarver Heart Center mentor is Henk Granzier, PhD, professor of Physiology and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and the Allan and Alfie Norville Endowed Chair for Heart Disease in Women Research.

Heddwen Brooks, PhDHeddwen Brooks, PhD, professor of Physiology and Pharmacology, received support from William and Dorothy Shaftner to study “T cell-mediated regulation of blood pressure in postmenopausal hypertension.” Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the number one risk factor for heart disease in postmenopausal women, yet current therapies do not control blood pressure in 64 percent of these women. Before menopause, anti-inflammatory T cells, an important part of the immune system, may be an important reason that blood pressure tends to be lower. The goal of this project is to use gene analysis to examine how T cell populations are impacted when estrogen is lost during menopause.

Mei So, a second-year medical student at the UA Collegeof Medicine– Phoenix, is working with her mentor, Rayna Mei So, medical studentGonzales, PhD, associate professor of Basic Medical Sciences, on the “Role of Doxorubicin on cyclooxygenase-2 levels and activity in primary human coronary artery vascular smooth muscle cells.” The project, supported by the Margarito Chavez Undergraduate/ Medical School Award, is studying whether a drug used to treat breast and other cancers causes vascular cell death and arterial changes that may contribute to heart disease risk in cancer survivors.