Supporting ‘next generation of scientists’

Dr. Dimitri Azar, Marcelo Bonini, Beata Wolska, J. Michael O’Donnell, E. Doug Lewandowski, R. John Solaro, Jesus Garcia Martinez, and William Roach, Jr.

UIC College of Medicine dean Dimitri Azar joins faculty members Marcelo Bonini, Beata Wolska, J. Michael O’Donnell, E. Doug Lewandowski, R. John Solaro and Jesus Garcia Martinez and former American Heart Association chair William Roach Feb. 4 to recognize researchers who have funding from the organization. Photo: Joshua Clark

A check for $1,567,316 is no small change.

That’s the amount represented by the big cardboard poster that former American Heart Association chair William Roach Jr. presented to College of Medicine Dean Dimitri Azar  Feb. 4 as the heart association recognized the UIC researchers it has funded over the past year.

The heart association has supported more than 300 projects at UIC over the past 40 years for a total of about $31 million in funding.

“I’d like to thank the American Heart Association for their generous support of cardiology research here at UIC, and also the faculty who nurture and guide the young investigators who receive AHA funding,” Azar said.

The College of Medicine has more than 20 laboratories focused on finding cures for cardiovascular diseases within the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research. The unit is the only one in the College of Medicine granted permanent center status by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

“Grants from the American Heart Association help support the next generation of scientists who will find therapies that target the biological underpinnings of heart disease that we are discovering in the lab today,” said E. Doug Lewandowski, center director and professor of physiology and biophysics.

“As the mentor of several AHA fellowship grant recipients, I can see the direct effect these funds have on supporting the early stages of the researcher careers of my students,” he said.

Ryan Lahey, a medical student in Lewandowski’s lab, received heart association funding to investigate the effects of different dietary fats on cardiac performance over the course of progressive heart failure. Lahey presented his findings at the American Heart Association annual meeting.

Marcelo Bonini, assistant professor of cardiology, received a grant from the heart association to seek new therapies for angina, currently treated with nitroglycerin. He is looking for ways to reduce tolerance to the drug, which is prescribed to more than 4 million Americans each year.

“Funding from the AHA helped me investigate new ideas and gather data I can use to seek additional funding,” Bonini said.

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