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Tim Domeier, PhD
MU cardiovascular researcher Tim Domeier, PhD, has received a National Institute on Aging Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to support his studies on how calcium affects heart function.

Calcium Research Could Lead to Better Treatments for Aging Hearts

Federal award will expand study of element's influence on individual heart muscle cells

Bone health isn't the only thing that calcium affects as the body ages. A University of Missouri researcher has received a new federal award to examine how calcium also influences aging heart muscle.

Tim Domeier, PhD, assistant professor of medical pharmacology and physiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, has received a National Institute on Aging Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to support his studies on how calcium affects heart function. The award provides five years of continuous funding for Domeier to expand his research under the guidance of senior cardiovascular scientists at MU.

"As the heart gets older, we know it loses some of its function. The body responds to this aging process by filling the heart with more blood volume," Domeier said. "Much like a balloon stretches when it's filled with air, heart muscle cells stretch when faced with higher blood volume, and this may cause release of more calcium within cells."

The body uses calcium to send signals to various organ systems. In the heart, calcium tells the organ when to beat, how hard to beat, and how long to beat. But the calcium signal must also turn off, and if not properly regulated can lead to conditions such as heart failure, arrhythmia, and even sudden cardiac death.

Domeier's laboratory seeks to uncover the mechanisms by which calcium levels are altered with disease and translate those findings into treatments for patients. Using an advanced imaging process called confocal laser scanning fluorescence microscopy, he monitors the function of calcium channels, calcium pumps, and calcium transporters in individual heart cells.

Heart Muscle Cells
Diseased heart muscle cells that are unable to properly control their level of calcium when the heart dialates are visualized with confocal fluorescence microscopy in Domeier's lab.

"Calcium may not only tell the heart when to beat but also when to grow and even when to die," Domeier said. "Aging heart muscle has difficulty regulating calcium, which makes elderly individuals more likely to develop heart problems. Our goal is to find out ways to help the aging heart handle calcium and develop therapies to improve the cardiovascular health of our rapidly expanding aging population."

Domeier received his doctorate in cellular and molecular physiology from Yale University and conducted postdoctoral research in cell physiology at Loyola University in Chicago. He served as an instructor in molecular biophysics and physiology at Rush University Medical Center before joining the University of Missouri in 2010.

"This competitive award from the National Institute on Aging is a testament to Dr. Domeier's promising cardiovascular research," said Ronald Korthuis, PhD, George L. and Melna A. Bolm Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Health at MU. "Projects like his propel us toward even greater discoveries and improved training for new scientists."

The University of Missouri School of Medicine's Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology is ranked among the nation's top such departments in terms of research funding. It's scientists specialize in cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology, exercise physiology, membrane biology and biophysics, radiopharmaceuticals, and receptor and molecular signaling.

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