BU helps secure Wellcome Trust Seed Award

The heart of an insect.

The heart of an insect.

A £100,000 Wellcome Trust Seed Award has been granted to fund a project using fruit flies (Drosophila) to examine an important yet poorly understood aspect of human heart physiology.

The heart senses and adapts to its own highly dynamic mechanical environment. This environment changes beat-by-beat, as well as over longer timescales, due to altered physiology or as a consequence of disease. Failure to detect and adjust cardiac performance accordingly is associated with arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. The mechanism for this adaptation is not known.

The goal is to study the cellular and molecular basis of this mechanism using the Drosophila heart as a simple model. Preliminary data obtained for an Honours project suggests that stretch-activated mechanosensitive ion channels are key components.

Research supported by Paul Hartley’s lab here at Bournemouth University and led by Dr Barry Denholm (University of Edinburgh) will investigate the hypothesis that these channels provide a direct link to convert physical force (stretch of the cardiac tissue) into biochemical signal (ion flux), which in turn regulates heart physiology and function (contractility).