Jeffrey A. Towbin, MD, of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center was awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with co-principal investigators Enkhsaikha Purevjav, MD, PhD and Lu Lu, MD, MS. He is lead principal investigator on the project «Discovery of Modifier Genes in Cardiomyopathy.»

The objective of this study is to identify the modifier genes that alter the expression of myopalladin (MYPN), the gene that affects the type and severity of cardiomyopathy — an inherited disease of the heart muscle that ultimately results in heart failure, transplant or sudden cardiac death in many patients. The project will examine how different genetic backgrounds effect the mutation of the MYPN gene which determines how cardiomyopathy is expressed in children. The study will use system genetics — an approach to understanding complex diseases by focusing on how genes work together rather than individually.

«Despite decades of research, it’s still difficult to predict how cardiomyopathy will present in a clinical setting,» said Towbin. «We believe that the likely reason for this is that the interaction of multiple genes — not just a single one — determines the course of the disease.»

Previous research has screened adult and pediatric patients with various types of cardiomyopathy and identified MYPN as a strong causal gene associated a wide variety of severity of cardiomyopathy. Patients had diagnoses ranging from asymptomatic left ventricular hypertrophy to dilation with progressive heart failure to sudden cardiac death or transplant.

«Cardiomyopathy symptoms can be highly varied even within the same family who have identical genetic mutations,» said Towbin.

Identifying modifier genes is now a crucial goal of research in cardiomyopathies. Results of this study would change cardiomyopathy care in terms of diagnosis, treatment and genetic counseling.

Towbin is conducting this research in conjunction with co-investigator Robert Williams, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Genetics, Genomics and Informatics at UTHSC.

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About Le Bonheur Children’s:

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., treats children through community programs, regional clinics and a 255-bed state-of-the-art hospital. Le Bonheur serves as a primary teaching affiliate for the University Tennessee Health Science Center and trains more than 350 pediatricians and specialists each year. Nationally recognized, Le Bonheur is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Children’s Hospital.

For more information, please call (901) 287-6030 or visit lebonheur.org. Connect with us at facebook.com/lebonheurchildrens, twitter.com/lebonheurchild or on Instagram at lebonheurchildrens.

About University of Tennessee Health Science Center:

As Tennessee’s only public, statewide, academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health through education, research, clinical care, and public service, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region. The main campus in Memphis includes six colleges: Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC also educates and trains medicine, pharmacy, and/or health professions students, as well as medical residents and fellows, at major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. For more information, visit http://www.uthsc.edu. Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/uthsc, on Twitter: twitter.com/uthsc and on Instagram: instagram.com/uthsc.

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