Simran Pherwani

Supervisor: Gary Lopaschuk

Project: Maturation of fatty acid oxidation in the newborn heart


Edmonton, AB

Degree program:

Bachelor of Science General

What's been the best part of your experience so far?

Among the most rewarding experiences during my summer studentship was meeting so many great individuals through research, both from other labs and conferences, and also attending conferences to expand my knowledge both in cardiology and research outside my field. I received the opportunity to present my research at Pediatric Research Day in May, which was an excellent learning experience in relaying my research to an interdisciplinary audience. I enjoy meeting others, and this summer research experience allowed me to build positive relationships and network with others.

How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?

This studentship enabled me to develop an appreciation and passion for the diverse complexities and challenges involved in pediatric research. It has given me a multifaceted approach to research and strengthened my critical thinking skills. This eye-opening and valuable experience confirmed my choice to pursue a master's degree in pediatrics to continue to look at cardiac energy metabolism in the context of a disease state. I am passionate about the field of cardiology and I am excited to be starting my masters!

Lay abstract:

Immediately post-birth, newborns normally undergo a major maturational increase in cardiac fatty acid oxidation (FAO), providing a major fuel for the heart to make energy in the form of ATP to power cellular processes. Newborns may be affected by congenital heart defects (CHDs), leading to improper heart function and the development of cardiac hypertrophy, where the heart muscle thickens and impedes blood flow. Stress from reparative surgery can cause additional hypertrophy. Post-translational modifications, such as acetylation, can regulate metabolic enzymes in cardiac FAO, increasing FAO, and hypertrophy delays this. My project will investigate how acetylation is mediated in the newborn heart and the impact of cardiac hypertrophy on this alteration and the mechanisms involved in newborn cardiac energy metabolism during maturation. Infant surgical heart tissue will be analyzed through immunoblotting and immunoprecipitation techniques, where the expression of FAO enzymes in the myocardium will be measured. Additionally, acetylase and deacetylase enzyme levels will also be measured to assess the amount of FAO acetylation. This research is integral to gain a better understanding of newborn cardiac energy metabolism and how changes in this can influence heart disease. Research findings will help develop novel strategies to protect newborn hearts from surgical stress and improve patient care of these newborns with CHDs.