Jeffrey Molkentin and Marjorie Maillet
Scientists discover critical enzyme for healthy heart function
Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute
After years of study and collaboration with fellow scientists, the work of Dr. Jeffery Molkentin has led to the first data proving that the enzyme calcineurin is critical in controlling normal development and function of heart cells, and that loss of the protein leads to heart problems and death in genetically modified mice. Scientists had already figured out that calcineurin is important to heart function, but they had not established the extent of its role prior to the current study.
These results offer important groundwork for future studies that could lead to new approaches to diagnosing and treating heart patients, said Marjorie Maillet, Ph.D., the study's first author. "We found that when you eliminate calcineurin, a pool of genes that regulates calcium in the heart went awry. This leads to defects in the growth and proliferation of heart cells, heart disease, arrhythmia, loss of contractility and heart failure and disease."
Dr. Maillet works in the laboratory of the study's senior investigator, Jeffery Molkentin, Ph.D., a researcher in the division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology at Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute. Dr. Molkentin's work has been supported by four AHA grants between 1993 and 2007. Equally impressive is that Dr. Molkentin has guided eleven AHA-supported trainees, who have contributed to the work as they established their research careers.