Prolonged QT interval, the electrical manifestation of repolarization in ventricular myocytes, is a major cause of cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death. Long QT syndrome (LQTS) can have a genetic basis or be induced by drug exposure or physiological stress. Drug-induced LQTS is a side effect of many drugs that have approved and is a common cause of drug failure in clinical trials. Though many of the genes are reported to cause LQTS, the mechanisms underlying the disease in humans are incompletely understood. My career goal is to develop novel systems to uncover molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying human cardiac arrhythmia and to find lead compounds for pharmaceutical applications to treat arrhythmia. My personal motivation for this study is that I have a grandmother who had suffered severe arrhythmia and then died last year. As a professional scientist I'd like to contribute to cardiovascular fields to help as many patients suffering arrhythmia as possible. Key elements of my career goal are 1) to develop human models of cardiac arrhythmia to examine how cardiac arrhythmia occurs in human hearts;2) to develop screen methods using human cells to find new lead compounds that have better effects but less side effects than present ones. To accomplish this goal, I have focused calcium signaling in heart function and development since undergraduate studies. This is because depletion of calcium related molecules in mice induced lethal cardiac dysfunction in most cases and many mutations in the molecules are reported to be associated with human cardiac diseases including LQTS. Here I propose to study a missense mutation in the L-type Ca2+ channel, CaV1.2, which causes LQTS and lethal arrhythmia in patients with Timothy syndrome (TS) in order to explore the effect of the TS mutation on the electrical activity and contraction of human cardiomyocytes (CMs). While TS is a rare disorder, CaV1.2 channels play important roles in generation of action potential and in excitation- contraction coupling for heart muscles. Therefore, human model of TS would be a useful platform to study mechanisms of arrhythmia and to test drugs for future treatment of cardiac arrhythmia. In preliminary studies, to develop human models of TS, I reprogrammed human skin cells from two TS patients to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and differentiated these cells into CMs. Electrophysiological recording and Ca2+ imaging studies of these cells revealed irregular contraction, excess Ca2+ influx, prolonged action potentials, delayed afterdepolarizations and irregular Ca2+ signaling. Using these cells I found that roscovitine restored the electrical and Ca2+ signaling properties of TS CMs. The approach using iPSC-derived CMs provides new opportunities for studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias in humans and for developing new drugs to treat these diseases. However, it is still difficult to screen a library of chemical compounds to treat lethal arrhythmia using human iPSC-derived CMs because electrophysiological recordings are not easily used for developing medium- throughput screen to find lead compounds to treat cardiac disease. Therefore, the goal of this project is to develop and validate an iPSC-based screening method that can be used to identify therapies for cardiac arrhythmia. This goal encompasses the approaches as follow: 1) Further characterization of phenotypes in TS cardiomyocytes: Using a variety of assays I will ask how TS mutation induce lethal ventricular tachycardia and whether TS mutation alters proliferation, differentiation, gene expression, contractility and ultra-structures in human CMs to uncover further molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie cardiac arrhythmia of TS. 2) Direct screen of drugs to rescue TS phenotypes: Several families of ion channel blockers are used clinically as well as ?-blockers to prevent lethal cardiac arrhythmia. However, it is not clear that these blockers can rescue the cardiac phenotypes observed in TS CMs. I will test these blockers for their ability to restore normal Ca2+ responses and reduce irregular contraction in TS CMs. In addition, I will also test derivates of roscovitine, which are tested to rescue the cellular phenotypes of TS. 3) Development of screen methods to find lead compounds: To develop medium throughput screen systems for a library of chemical compounds to rescue the cardiac phenotypes of TS, I will test two different methods based on relative motion and calcium response in TS CMs using automated fluorescent microscopes. To validate the systems, I will used ?-agonists and roscovitine, which have been tested on TS CMs, to optimize experimental conditions for the methods to assess the reproducibility as determined by Z' value. Finally, I will conduct a pilot screen in TS CMs using LOPAC 1280 compounds that have been used in human, which is available through Stanford high-throughput screening facility. These approaches using human cardiac model of TS would be very unique and innovative to understand the mechanisms underlying human cardiac arrhythmia. The proposed systems to screen a library of compounds to rescue TS phenotypes will provide a platform to find novel lead compounds that would be clinically useful for the treatment of not only TS but also other cardiac arrhythmias.

Public Health Relevance

Public Narrative: The risk of sudden death due to genetic and drug-induced cardiac arrhythmia is a major concern for patients, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies in the United States. This project will investigate mechanisms of a genetic cardiac arrhythmia, Timothy syndrome, using novel biological techniques to generate human cardiac cells from the patient skin cells. This approach will provide an innovative platform to test potential drugs on human cardiac cells derived from patients for future treatment of cardiac arrhythmia including Timothy syndrome and other lethal arrhythmia caused by genetic bases and side effects of approved drugs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Transition Award (R00)
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Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
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Burns, Kristin
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Columbia University
Schools of Medicine
New York
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